Fun English: Advanced Pronunciation Exercise—Test Your Skills

tongue-twistersAre you ready to have fun while practicing your pronunciation?

Below we’ve got a entertaining poem that shows the absurdities [ridiculousness] of English pronunciation.

The English language, as it’s written, is quite strange compared with languages like Spanish and Portuguese where words are always spelled like they are pronounced. Sure, there are rules for pronunciation, but a lot of times there’ll be words that have the same endings but sound different.

There are many words that have the same endings but sound completely different.

To know the correct spelling of the word often just takes memorization. We don’t like to always follow the rules in English!

So let’s get started.

How to Practice Your Pronunciation

The best way to use this poem to practice/test your pronunciation is to:

1. Read the poem out loud [speaking]. Do your best to read with a good rhythm as it will help your pronunciation.

2. Look at the definitions of any of the bolded words below that you don’t know.

3. Listen closely to my recording of the poem while you read along. Do your best to notice any errors you made in pronunciation.

4. Read the poem out loud again. Focusing on speaking with the same rhythm and flow as the native speaker.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you can read the poem flawlessly [without making any mistakes]

6. Study the poem more carefully, examining the strange pronunciation of the words.

The Poem

  • Direct Download to Computer on this page (From that page, you will right Click and Save)

I take it you already know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough

Others may stumble, but not you

On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.

And cork and work and card and ward

And font and front and word and sword

Well done! And now if you wish, perhaps

To learn of less familiar traps.

Beware of heard, a dreadful word

That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

And dead: it’s said like bed, not  bead–

For goodness sakes don’t call it deed.

Watch out for meat and great and threat,

They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother,

Nor both in bother, broth in brother.

And here is not a match for there,

And dear and fear for bear and pear.

And then there’s dose and rose and lose–

Just look them up–and goose and choose,

And do and go, then thwart and cart.

Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!

I’d mastered it when I was five.


  • I take it – I assume

  • Tough – strong, difficult to break

  • Bough – a main branch of a tree (uncommon)

  • Cough – to shoot air out from your lungs with a harsh sound, generally when sick.

  • Dough – the mixture of ingredients used to make bread, before being cooked

  • Stumble – make mistakes while speaking

  • Hiccough – an involuntary spasm that makes a funny noise and is almost impossible to stop (see video) 

  • Thorough – when something is done carefully and completely

  • Cork – the brown stopper in the top of a wine bottle

  • Ward – a room for patients in a hospital

  • Font – a type/style of text. Examples: Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, etc.

  • Dreadful – extremely bad

  • Bead – a small piece of glass, stone, or other material, usually round and used in jewelry or clothing.

  • For goodness sakes – to be surprised or annoyed by something

  • Deed – a brave or noble act

  • Threat – promising to inflict pain, injury, or death to someone

  • Suite – a fancy room in a hotel

  • Debt – when you owe money to someone

  • Moth – a colorless butterfly (see photo)

  • Bother – to annoy someone

  • Broth – the liquid part of a soup

  • Dose – a quantity of medicine or drug

  • Rose – a beautiful flower (see photo)

  • Goose – a large white bird, similar to a duck (see photo)

  • Thwart – to prevent someone from accomplishing something

  • Cart – a vehicle used for carrying stuff.

  • Man alive – used to express shock (not very common)

Did you like what you read?

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  • Sandar says:

    easy to say after practising repeatly

  • Daike says:

    who is this person in the audio? i loved his voice teehee…

  • Charina says:

    This poem really helps to those who can’t pronounce the words well. They can practice to make their pronunciation better.

  • Richard says:

    I absolutely loved the video on accent reduction! I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 15 years and I agree with every word of the video and this is exactly what I focus on with my students. I wish this was the norm rather than the exception and that schools worked more on helping students actually use the language rather than focus on garmmar/translation. Even those who profess to teach “communicative method” really only play lip service to this. I talk about rhytm and music all the time with my students and it comes as a shock to them at first too! I am so happy to have found this site. Thank you!

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher, Richard!

  • Dana says:

    Who is this wonderfully helpful and humorous poem by?! Thank you!

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      As I found, it was written by Dr. Gerald Nolst Trenit (1870-1946) who was a Dutch observer of English and wrote under the pseudonym Charivarius.

  • Anna Marie A. Birao says:

    I bet you need to review the pronunciation of bough.

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Thank you for pointing this out, Anna Marie!

  • Anna Marie A. Birao says:

    You pronounced “bough” incorrectly. TML

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Yes, you’re right. We made a mistake here. It should be pronounced BAU

  • Excellent tool for practicing pronunciation

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      We are happy to help, Ellis!

  • yusuf says:

    it is amazing i like it

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Happy to hear that, Yusuf!

  • Mary says:

    bough is not pronounced correctly.