The Most Common Sound in Spoken English

Linguistic research indicates that the most common sound in spoken English is the schwa vowel sound.

The phonetic symbol for schwa is /ə/.

The schwa sounds like “uh”.


Why is the schwa sound so common?

The schwa is the most common sound because native speakers use this sound to pronounce vowels in reduced syllables.


Here is an example of how English speakers use the schwa (or “uh” ) sound.

Let’s take my name… Susan…

When I say Susan the first syllable is stressed. The /uw/ has a long clear sound.

The letter a in the second syllable is reduced. That “a” has a schwa sound.

Using phonetic symbols my name would look like: ‘su:zən.

When I teach my accent reduction coaching clients about the schwa sound, I type my name like this: Suw→zǝn.

When I type my name like that, my clients can say it with an American accent.


The schwa sound occurs in almost every word! That’s why it’s the most common sound in English (even though most people have never heard of it).


The most common word in English is the.

The is frequently mispronounced by non-native speakers because it starts with the troublesome voiced th sound.

Here is the symbol for that /ð/.

The vowel sound in the is a schwa /ǝ/ in these phrases:

  • thǝ book
  • thǝ car
  • thǝ course

The vowel sound in the is /iy/ in these phrases:

  • the other day
  • the accent
  • the Americans

You  simply MUST learn to use the schwa vowel sound if you REALLY want to reduce your accent! ☝

One  excellent self study course that will teach you how to use the schwa sound is Best Accent Training. Click HERE to read more about the Best Accent Training mp3 audio course.

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