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pronunciation of “a”

I would like to know the pronunciation of a in the expression make a difference. Is it like a in ate or like a in about?


In ordinary speech, one pronounces it like in about. It is like in ate only if we want to stress the a for some reason or other.

  • The usual reason for stressing an indefinite article is to make clear that the following noun is special, unique or surprising. As in " 'I bought you a pet', 'A pet? Why do you think I'd want a pet?' ". – Abel Mar 27 '12 at 12:59
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    See the movie Wayne's World: "Gun rack? I don't even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack." The long "a" makes it clear just how unwelcome the gift is, and how unlikely gun ownership is likely to be. – rtperson Mar 27 '12 at 13:28

Either is fine. Personally, I found the pronunciation like the a in about to be more natural.


There are so many accents that it is impossible to answer such question :). But Will Hunting gave a general idea about it (although I can imagine accents where a like in ate will not have any meaning)


Will Hunting is right. Not enough rep to up vote...

Just some more notes: in rapid speech, this the "uh" sound in uh-bout (about) is represented by the ə (schwa) or the ʌ (IPA). Vowels tend to gravitate toward the laziest form of pronunciation (at least in American English... I say this as an American). The "uh" sound represented by the schwa or caret is one of the first sounds you can make as a child; thus is it one of the easiest.

Another example of this would be the pronunciation of the word "butter." Americans use a "flap" to where it almost sounds like "buder." That flap is quicker than enunciating it (like in UK speech) where the "t" is pronounced as "t." Side note, same vowel sound (ʌ).

I didn't really have much to add, but since I can't up vote yet, I added a lot of useless (hopefully interesting) information.

  • I believe you mean caret, not carot. – Robusto Apr 8 '12 at 14:13
  • You are correct, sir! – Jeff May 18 '12 at 13:31

Ironically I pronounce it like "ah" instead of "a" So for me it would be, "Make ah difference." Guess it really just depends on your local dialect. Also language is a continually morphing and as long as you are understood and don't sound like a complete idiot you should be fine.

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