The letter A has at least 5 different sounds,
and it has a minimum of two characteristic sounds:
The A for its name, as in the word NAME,
and the A it is normally associated with, as in the word CAT.
We need to mention a couple of things here.
Rule - If you look at the word NAME, there is an E at the end, and this is called a silent E, because we don't pronounce it.
When a silent E is used, the A is nearly always pronounced as in NAME.
So NAME, TAKE, LATE, WAKE, FATE, CAPE, all have the same sounding A because they have the silent E.
Rule - A single syllable word which ends in a consonant, like CAT, nearly always has a A which sounds like CAT.
So, FAT, TAP, SAT, HAM, HAS, all sound the same.
Words ending in R are an exception, so FAR doesn't sound like CAT.
So, words like CAR, BAR, JAR, FAR, PAR all sound the same.
If a single syllable word ends in LL, the word sounds like the O of DOG.
So, the A in TALL sounds like the O in DOG, with one exception, the sound is longer.
This is a good point to mention that in English, a vowel sound can be long, or short. This is a fact that you have to learn to accept. So, the sound of BALL and DOG are very similar, but BALL is a long vowel sound and DOG is a short vowel sound.
Coming back to A words ending in LL, which have a long vowel sound.
Other such words are
TALL, FALL, BALL, CALL, MALL.
The final sound we need to be aware of is the sound of SCHWA, which we will be discussing in more detail in another section.
In the word BALLOON, there are 2 syllables, the BA and the LLOON. The syllable LLOON is the dominant one, so the other syllable uses the schwa sound for the vowel, which is the sound of the beginning of the word AWAY, and is considered a neutral vowel sound.
These ideas will be discussed in another section, but that is why the A in BALLOON has the sound it has.
Finally, when A is used as an article, such as A cat, it is not stressed, and sounds like SCHWA.
Look at the two words FAT and FAST. It is very common that if the word ends in one consonant, it sounds like the A in CAT, but when it ends in two consonants, it sounds like the A in HARD.
FAT > FAST, FARM
HAT > HARD
PAN > PAST, PASS
CAN > CAN'T
This final example is very important because many students mistakenly think that CAN and CAN'T have the same vowel sound.