How to pronounce world, work, and word in English

Pronunciation & Shadowing Courses

Hi students! It’s Shayna from EspressoEnglish.net and today I’m going to give you some tips for one of the most difficult English words to pronounce, and that is “world” – a lot of students find this very hard. We’ll also practice work and word, since these are two more that English learners have a hard time pronouncing clearly and correctly.

If you want to be fluent in English, your pronunciation doesn’t have to be “perfect” (there’s really no such thing as perfect pronunciation, and there’s a lot of pronunciation variety even among native speakers) – but it does need to be CLEAR so that other people can understand you.

I can help you get that nice, clear, confident pronunciation inside my pronunciation courses – we have two of them, one focuses on the sounds of American English and the other one focuses on practicing shadowing. You can learn more and join those courses by clicking on the link in the video description.

How to pronounce WORK & WORD

Let’s begin by focusing on work and word.

The first thing I want you to notice is that even though these words have an “o,” it doesn’t really have an “o” sound. The “or” in these words sounds like “er” like in the words bird and her. In fact, the first part of work and word is exactly like the word were, like “They were happy.”

So first practice saying “were” – put your lips together for the W, then they spread out wide for the “er” sound – were, were.

To make “work,” just add a “K” sound to were:

were / work

And the word “word” is just were plus a “D” sound. Repeat after me:

were / word

Now let’s try all three:

were / work / word

How to pronounce WORLD

OK, but what about this really hard one, world? We have “were” at the beginning, followed by an L and then a D sound. I think what makes it hard is the transition between the R and the L.

So what I recommend is to try saying it really slowly, stretch the word out, and feel the difference between the R, where your tongue is low in your mouth, changing into an L, where your tongue touches the roof of your mouth just behind your top teeth.

Like this:

WOOOOORRRRLLLLDDD

I know this feels silly, but it’s a great exercise. When you can get all the sounds right saying it slowly, then gradually make it shorter, speed it up, until you can say it normally:

WOOOORRRRLLLLD

WOOORRRLLLD

WOORRLLD

WORRLLD

WORLD

WORLD

It’s like lifting weights at the gym – you’re exercising, you’re just training your tongue to move in the right way until you can do it quickly and easily.


Remember, you CAN master these difficult words with practice, and you can find lots more practice inside my pronunciation courses.

I hope this lesson has helped you – and tell me, what other words do you find hard to pronounce? I’d love to hear about them so I can teach you in future lessons. Thanks for joining me and I’ll talk to you next time.

Speak English more clearly & confidently!

Learn more about the Pronunciation & Shadowing Courses