K and T minimal pairs
A pronunciation resource for the K and T minimal pairs. If you are not familiar with them, minimal pairs are words that sound the same except for one part of the word. Their spelling is irrelevant as the k sound can be spelt with a K, a C, or CH in English.
Here we are focusing on words that differ only in the K and T sounds. The minimal pairs on this page either use the initial sound (the first sound of a word) or the final sound ( the last sound of a word).
This page has 64 free picture cards you can download and use in learning activities. Amongst other activities, you can use the cards for flashcard games, matching/pelmanism, or memory games. Apart from 2 minimal pairs, the cards all use 1 syllable words.
How to make the k sound
The k sound is unvoiced, this means that you do not use your vocal cords when you make it – there should be no vibration in your throat at all. In English, there is a quiet k sound and a louder k sound. This depends on the word.
First of all the loud k sound. Start by touching the back of the roof of your mouth with the back of your tongue. Next, push air through your mouth while quickly moving your tongue away from the roof of your mouth and releasing air.
To make the quiet k sound, you push less air through your mouth and don’t push your tongue forward your tongue suddenly.
How to make the t sound
The t sound is also unvoiced and no vocal cords are used. To make the t sound, place the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth. As you push air through your mouth suddenly release your tongue in a downwards motion to let the air out.
Again, a quieter sound can be made by doing this more slowly.
Note – This is the regular t sound that is used in the minimal pairs on this page. There are more t sounds such as the Alveolar flap, the Glottal Stop, the Aspirated T and the Unaspirated T.
K and T minimal pairs list (initial sound)
|call - tall||can - tan||cape - tape||cart - tart|
|caught - taught||cask - task||coast - toast||cold - told|
|cook - took||cop - top||core - tore||corn - torn|
|cap - tap||crack - track||crane - train||crash - trash|
|cry - try||cube - tube||key - tea/tee||kick - tick|
|kale - tail/tale||cake - take||cub - tub||kite - tight|
|cool - tool||car - tar||cable - table||coffee - toffee|
K and T minimal pairs list (final sound)
|ache - eight/ate||back - bat||bake - bait||beak - beat|
|bike - bite||coke - coat||dock - dot||hike - height|
|knock - knot/not||like - light||make - mate||peck - pet|
|neck - net||pack - pat||pick - pitt||puck - putt|
|shock - shot||sick - sit||talk - taught||week - wheat|
K and T minimal pairs practice sentences
Here are some amusing practice sentences –
She spilt coke on her coat.
There is a bat on your back.
His neck is in the net.
Sit if you are sick.
The pet parrot pecked a pickle.
Take the cake to the cable table.
He hiked the heights looking for wheat all week.
There’s a cub in the tub on the coast eating toast.
For a fun activity, get your students to make their own minimal pairs sentences and tongue twisters!