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r and l sounds in English
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/r/ & /l/

It is easy to confuse /r/ and /l/ in English. However, it is also easy to learn how to make the two different sounds. The big thing to remember is that when you say /r/, YOUR TONGUE SHOULD NOT TOUCH THE TOP OF YOUR MOUTH. It should be bunched up towards the back of your mouth with the tip pointing towards the top of your mouth (BUT NOT TOUCHING!). We do NOT move our tongue while making the American /r/ sound. This makes it different from the /r/ is German, Czech, or even some other English dialects, like Scottish. Your lips should also be round when you say /r/, like you are getting ready to kiss someone.

Here are some videos with /r/ sounds at the beginning of them. (These videos will launch a separate video viewer to play them. Make sure you have a plug-in for video clips.)

There are actually two different ways to make /l/ sounds in American English. The most common way is to put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth (as it your were going to make a /d/ or /t/ sou nd). As you make the sound, the air comes out from the sides of your tongue. The second way to make /l/ is used after some vowels, like in the words call, full, toll, and walk. This sound is made way in the back of your mouth by putting the back of you r tongue close to the back of your mouth so that there is only a small opening for air.

/r/ sounds after a vowel change the sound of the vowel, too. This is called r colorization.

Now let's listen to some sounds!

  r sounds: l sounds:


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last updated 2/14/10