English Pronunciation: Difference between the sounds /v/ and /w/ in “move” and “mow”

Wrong pronunciation can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Let’s find out how.

Today we’ll start with one pair of words that look very similar, which is why students of English tend to mix up their pronunciation. The verbs in question are move and mow.

Many of you have houses with gardens that obviously require care – you have to do the small jobs around the house – weeding, trimming the trees and bushes, sweeping the walkway from time to time, and, of course, there’s the grass. In my classes, students often tell me: “Last weekend I moved the lawn”, which is where I respond: “That must’ve been a hard job, moving the lawn!” They look at me in puzzlement, thinking, why would that be a hard job? It’s just pushing the machine in front of me, possibly listening to music while doing it…

Well, the problem is they used the wrong verb. “Move” means to change position of something, to change from one place to another. You can move furniture in your house, you can move your hips from side to side when dancing, or money from one bank account to another. If you need to use this verb in the past simple form, you simply add /d/ in the end as it’s a regular verb. “I moved my car because it was blocking my neighbor’s car.” Again, this is M-O-V-E – “move”.

However, what my students meant to say was that they mowed the lawn. “Mow” means to cut grass using a machine with special blades, which is called lawn mower. You mow your lawn with it – lawn is an area of ground in a garden or park covered in short grass. Hence the name lawn mower. We use the present simple form – “mow” – when we’re talking about a repeated action, for instance “I mow my lawn once every two weeks.” Or: “You shouldn’t mow the grass if it’s wet.” And of course, if you wanna refer to a finished past action, use the past simple form – “mowed” – “He mowed the lawn and painted the garage door afterward.”

Hopefully this has been helpful to you. Next time we’ll go over another troublemaker pair of words that are spelled similarly, but have different pronunciation and a whole different meaning. So, stay tuned.

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