British English: the “AIR” Diphthong

Diphthongs are sounds that contain two sounds within one syllable. If you were to clap for each syllable while you say these words, the diphthong would be part of just one clap. This article will discuss a diphthong unique to the British accent, the /eə/ diphthong, or the”air” diphthong. 

To make the /eə/ diphthong sound, you will need to know how to make the separate sounds of /e/ as in “egg” and “any,” and /ə/, the schwa sound, shortly after each other. In a diphthong, the sound slides from the one sound, in this case the /e/ to the /ə/. You may notice that your mouth closes slightly and your lips move slightly forward as the vowel sound changes.

Very few American dialects contain this sound;  the “air” diphthong  pronounced as /eə/ is far more common in British English

Examples of the “Air” Diphthong as /eə/

The /eə/ sound can be written in many different ways. Note how these same words are pronounced as “r-controlled vowels” in American English:


Air           /eə/ in British English,          /er/ in American English

Square  /skweə/ in British English    /skwer/ in American English

Dare      /deə/ in British English.       /der/ in American English

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For more on diphthongs, check out these articles:

Would you like a little more coaching on your pronunciation with a professional ESL teacher?  To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional experienced English teacher.  In fact, the first week is free for you to try it out!

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel has been helping people improve their English since 2004; the knowledge she gained from completing her Master's degrees in Psychology and in English helps her every day. She has lived in 4 different English-speaking countries and she currently lives in the Italian Alps.
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