A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ in a single phoneme.
Minimal pairs show two words together that only change in one phoneme which is in the same position in both words. They normally confuse non-native speakers due to their similarity.
The phoneme that changes can either be a consonant or a vowel sound.
Some typical minimal pairs are:
|/p/ – /b/||pin – bin|
|/s/ – /z/||bus – buzz|
|/f/ – /θ/||free – three|
|/dʒ/ – /j/||jaw – your|
|/æ/ – /e/||bad – bed|
|/ɒ/ – /ɔ:/||cot – caught|
- As it can be seen, the words are almost equal in sound, not in their written form
- sit –seat;
- bat – but;
- so – saw;
- pin – bin.
Minimal pairs are often used to show that two sounds contrast in a language.
External link to Minimal pairs exercises (1212).