How to pronounce GIRL & WORLD

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to pronounce girl, world, pearl and other English words that end in -rl!

These words can be difficult to pronounce… Especially since the pronunciation is different between British English and American English. If you have been trying to say “girl” and “world” right for years, but you just can’t make it happen – this pronunciation lesson will sort you out!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Today we’re going to go through the pronunciation of these tricky words. Do you find any of them difficult?

But before we do that, I want to tell you about the community tab right here inside Youtube. Now if you’re a subscriber, you probably already know about this. You’ve probably already seen some of my posts, some of my pictures. It’s a cool way that we can hang out a little bit more. Now I have to admit that I find social media a little overwhelming. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, everywhere.

So I was really, really glad when YouTube created a space where we can hang out together and I can share pictures and I can ask you for recommendations and show you some behind the scenes sort of stuff.

So to be honest, I would much rather be here chatting with you guys. This is where I spend all of my time and this is where I want to hang out with you. In fact, this lesson today came from my YouTube community. I asked you what were some difficult words to pronounce and Puji suggested: ‘girl’, ‘world’ and other words that have RL in them.

Okay back to the lesson! What do all of these words have in common? The R and the L at the end and also the vowel sound. Yes, all of these words have different vowel letters but we know that that doesn’t mean much in English, right? These vowel letters are all pronounced in exactly the same way, with the /ɜː/ vowel sound.

So this is where your eyes start playing tricks on you in English. You see different vowel letters and so you try to pronounce them differently. Don’t! This sound is the same for all of them. To make this sound, your tongue is flat in your mouth. The front of it, the front of your tongue should be behind your bottom teeth like this. If the sound still doesn’t sound right, try pushing your lower jaw out a little further to lengthen your tongue.

Next we need to tackle the RL consonant cluster. A consonant cluster is when two or more consonants are together in a word and they can be difficult to pronounce. Often consonants are much easier when there is a vowel sound between them, right? But this cluster is actually pronounced differently by different native English speakers. So this could be part of the reason why this word is difficult for you. You keep hearing it being pronounced in different ways and now you’re a bit confused! When listening to standard American pronunciation, you’ll hear both of these consonant sounds. While when you’re listening to standard British or Australian pronunciation, you won’t hear that /r/ consonant sound.

I’m going to ask my brother-in-law Alan to help me to demonstrate this. You remember him from this video, right? He’s American.

Emma: Hey Alan, can you say ‘girl’ for me?
Alan: Girl.
Emma: Great! Now use it in a sentence.
Alan: There is a very pretty girl walking down the street.
Emma: Perfect! Thanks, that’s all I need.

So you just heard Alan really pronounce that /r/ sound. In fact, the vowel sound is hardly there at all! Girl.

Now this is not how I pronounce it at all. In British English and Australian English, this R is silent and it’s the vowel sound that is much clearer. Girl. So I’ll be teaching in this lesson with my accent. I won’t be doing any rubbish American impersonations but if you’re really keen to learn to pronounce this word in an American accent, I’ve added a few extra links in the description to American English pronunciation lessons that I recommend you try.

Okay, so let’s get started!


So starting with the consonant sound. Now this sound is made right at the back of the mouth. By blocking the throat with the back of the tongue. So moving into the vowel sound. Notice that my tongue doesn’t move, it doesn’t change position to the consonant sound. It just stays with the vowel sound.

Nice! Now we need to move to the /l/ sound and we do that by lifting the tip of the tongue up so that it’s behind the top teeth.

  • The girl is waiting by the door.
  • Is that your girlfriend?


The /k/ consonant is the unvoiced pair of the /g/ sound. So actually, your tongue, your throat, everything is in the same position. It’s just that one sound is voiced, and the other is unvoiced and it’s made with air. See that my tongue is staying in exactly the same position. It doesn’t change.

Now moving to the /l/ sound, we need to lift the tip of the tongue so that it’s touching behind the top teeth.

  • She helps her grandmother to curl her hair.

Let’s try another.


And add the vowel.  Move to the /l/ sound by lifting the tongue up to the top of her mouth, behind your teeth.

  • She had a beautiful pair of pearl earrings.


This one’s a little trickier. Starting with the consonant sound, watch my lips. See how they come together in a tight circle and it’s a voiced sound made with your vocal cords. Now add the vowel sound. It’s exactly the same as this word here, ‘were’. Now do exactly as we did before, flip your tongue up to the top of your mouth, behind your teeth.

Now you’re saying ‘whirl’ and this means to spin around and around and around, really quickly, ‘whirl’.

So we need to finish with the /d/ consonant sound, right? At the end of ‘whirl’, my tongue is up behind my teeth. Whirl. And the rest of my tongue, the sides of my tongue, it’s not touching anything. For the /d/ sound, you’ll need to close the gap with the edges of your tongue here at the top of your mouth. Try to catch the sound and then release it. Your teeth will naturally come up closer together as you try to do this. So try to exaggerate the movement that’s happening in your jaw. Your jaw is extending down and out to make the sound. Remember if that sound is – if your jaw is too close to your neck, you’ll make a different sound. So that movement and that length in your jaw is going to help you to make the correct sound.

  • The whole world is watching.
  • It’s the most beautiful place in the world.

Should we keep going with some more examples? Why not?


So you might be thinking what on earth is ‘hurl’? It’s actually a really useful word. It means to throw something and usually with a lot of force, usually in an angry or a violent way.

  • He hurled the lamp across the room.

A really strong violent way.

Add the vowel. Okay so that’s this word, ‘her’. Then you need to add the /l/ so the tip of the tongue comes up and you’ll often hear ‘hurl’ used in these collocations.

‘to hurl abuse’ or ‘to hurl insults’

So this means to throw insults or abuse at someone, to yell at them really loudly. To hurl abuse at someone.

  • He hurled abuse at the waiter as he was dragged out of the restaurant.

Ready to try a more complex sentence? Let’s try and put a few of these words together.

  • The world watched as the girl with the curly hair hurled pearls across the room.

Can you think of any other words with this combination of letters in them? Try to write a sentence with these words in the comments to help everyone else to practise here. Write it in the comments. So depending on your native language you will find one way of pronouncing these words a little easier than the other.

Perhaps the American ‘girl’ is easier for you or maybe the British pronunciation ‘girl’. Whatever! It really doesn’t matter. My advice is to experiment with both pronunciations and then just do what feels easiest and most comfortable for you. Both pronunciations are acceptable and the most important thing is that you are understood and that you feel comfortable making these sounds. So do whatever helps you to feel most comfortable.

So that’s it for this pronunciation lesson. If you want to keep practising your pronunciation with me, then check out these lessons right here. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t subscribed already and I’ll see you in the next lesson. Bye for now!

Links mentioned in the video

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