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 Welcome back, dear English Fighters, to another exciting episode of the English Fighters podcast, the podcast that helps you level up your English skills. I’m your host, Justyna, and today I have a fantastic episode planned for you. 

We’ll be diving into the world of minimal pairs and exploring the subtle differences between two vowel sounds, /ɪ/ and /i:/, in American English. So, get ready to polish your pronunciation and have some fun along the way!

Before we jump into our exercises, let’s quickly clarify what minimal pairs are. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that differ by only one sound. In this case, we’re focusing on the /ɪ/ sound as in “hit” and the /i/ sound as in “heat” or “feet” vs “fit”, or “his” vs “he’s”.

By mastering the distinction between these two sounds, you can greatly enhance your spoken English and sound more like a native speaker.

And to help you practice these minimal pairs, I’ve prepared some exercises that will definitely come in handy today. So, listen carefully and repeat after me, because in order to implement these new pronunciation rules, you have to practice ACTIVELY, not just in your head, ok? 🙂 

Firstly, let’s take a look at the relaxed /I/ sound. In order to produce this sound, you need to follow these steps:

  • Keep your mouth and tongue relaxed.
  • Open your mouth slightly.
  • Spread your lips.
  • Your tongue should be raised and positioned in the front of your mouth.
  • Keep the tip of your tongue lowered, just behind your bottom teeth.

Here’s an important fact.

You’ll find this sound under the “u” and “i” letter – yes, you heard me. The i in English in NEVER pronounced as our POLISH I – the American one is relaxed. Pretty shocking, right?

Let’s practice this sound with some words:

  • SHIP
  • FISH
  • LICK
  • LIVE
  • HIT
  • BUSY

So now let’s practice with sentences

  • I want to buy a ship.
  • Sit down, please. 
  • I don’t like fish.
  • I want to live in America.
  • Stop hitting me.
  • I’m busy right now. 
  • What’s for dinner?

Ok, I’m sure you know the drill now, let’s break down the other sound, the stressed “ee” sound that we tend to overuse in English, because it’s what we have in Polish

  • Spread your lips as if you were smiling.
  • Lift the middle of your tongue

You’ll find it under:

ee – keep ea – teach ie – believe ei– receive – taxi – lovely

Let’s practice this sound with some words:

  • Sheep
  • Beach
  • Leak
  • He’s
  • Beat
  • Leave
  • Feet 
  • Feel

Let’s practice with sentences:

  • Aww, what a lovely sheep!
  • Let’s go to the beach!
  • He’s my best friends.
  • That beats me.
  • Stop hitting me.
  • I want to leave this room.
  • I don’t like my feet
  • I feel you. 

Now it’s time for us to compare these two sounds that make a HUGE difference. 

SHEEPHe’s got sheep.SHIPHe’s got a ship.
BEACHLet’s go to the beach.BITCHLet’s go to that bitch.
LEAVEI want to leave.LIVEI want to live.
FEETI want to have nice feet.FITI want to be fit.
SEATTake a seat.SITSit down.
FEELCan you feel it?FILLCan you fill it in?
EATI don’t want to eat.ITI don’t like it.
HEATI can’t stand the heat.HITStop hitting me.
STEELIt’s made of steel.STILLI still love him.
HE’SHe’s my boss.HISThat’s his daughter.

Wow, that a lot of new information, isn’t it? 


I will give you a sentence with two minimal pairs, and you have to choose the correct one 🙂 

 Here’s your first sentence: „Please,  sit/seat down and read the book.” 

The answer is SIT the other words SEAT means “siedzenie”.

That’s right! It’s “sit” down and read a book.

Next sentence: “She fills or feels the warm sand between her toes.”

 It’s “feel” of course! 

Well done! It’s “feels” the warm sand between her toes.

You’re nailing it! Let’s move on to exercise 3, where I’ll challenge you to create your own sentences.

Now it’s time for you to get creative. Come up with your own sentences using the minimal pairs we’ve discussed today. Feel free to share them with me on my Instagram, feel free to DM me 🙂 

Use your imagination and incorporate these minimal pairs into your daily conversations. Practice makes perfect, and this is your chance to shine!

 And remember, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learning a language is all about experimenting and improving along the way.

Embrace the journey, and don’t forget to have fun with it.

Ok, guys, that brings us to the end of another PRONUNCIATION PRACTICE. I hope you enjoyed exploring minimal pairs with me and that you feel motivated to incorporate these sounds into your everyday speech.

Remember, practice regularly, stay motivated, and soon enough, you’ll master these minimal pairs effortlessly.

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