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Written By: Big Fish

Getting students comfortable with the pronunciation of similar sounding words (minimal pairs) can be a challenge. If you make it a game you'll get better results and the students will have more fun!

Skills Focus for this game / activity

Grammar & Language functions practiced in this game / activity

yes / no questions
Object of the game / activity

The purpose of the game is to help students differentiate between minimal pairs such as tree & three.

Vocabulary Focus for the game / activity


Student language level


Time required for this game / activity

10-30 minutes

Typical group size for this game/ activity


Preparation required for this game/ activity

You'll need to prepare a list of minimal pairs for the game. A few examples are:

fit / feet

ship / sheep

tree / three

There are a number of great books out there that provide lists of minimal pairs and offer help on teaching pronunciation. Ship or Sheep an Intermediate Pronunciation course is just one of many.

Required Materials for this game/ activity

A4 (or 8.5 x 11) paper sheets
Game / Activity Instructions
Minimal pairs as pronunciation practice is great fun when played as a game. If can be used at any time, as long as you have a prepared set of minimal pairs. Use this game to get the energy level of you class up, or use it on field trips!

Pre-game / activity:
Get your students ready by writing a few minimal pairs up on the board and pronouncing them clearly as you write them.

Introducing the game / activity:
Write a couple of minimal pair numbers on the board. Thirty and thirteen, forty and fourteen, etc. Point to a number and pronounce it to the class. Do this a few times for all the examples that you put on the board.

Playing the game / activity:
Now call out one of the words twice and ask the students if they are the same or different (they're the same). Tell the students the answer and do it again with another word, but this time call out two different words such as fourteen and forty. Ask the students if they are the same or different (they're different).

Now you can start working through the list you prepared before class. Have the students answer are they the same or different for each word pair. You can vary the questions as you wish.

Extending the game / activity:

This game works well as a consensus game. Put the students in teams of three and let them answer as a team. You may want to repeat the questions a few times just to give them a chance...

Once you've played the game a while let the students call out the words. It will take time, but eventually they'll become comfortable with these kinds of words.

You can find dozens of free games and activities that are linked and cross referenced to an online English grammar at

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