The /f/ sound is spelled with <f>, <ff> or <ph> in phase. The /w/ sound is spelled <w> or <wh>. The contrast can only occur initially or medially. Notice the partial homograph wear/Wear making pairs with fair and fear.
The contrast is between a voiceless labio-dental fricative and a voiced bilabialal semivowel. It is a slight problem for some learners, especially Spanish speakers.
One mildly taboo pair is fee/wee.
The pair comes up in the collocation "fine wine". Other interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 3.6%. The list makes 120 semantic distinctions, a loading of 51%.
affair aware afford award afforded awarded affording awarding affords awards faced waist fact whacked fade wade faded waded fades wades fading wading fairy wary fag wag fagged wagged fagging wagging fags wags fail wail failed wailed failing wailing fails wails fails Wales fain Wayne fain wain fair ware fairs wares fair wear fairs wears fairer wearer fake wake faked waked fakes wakes faking waking fall wall falling walling falls walls false waltz falsies waltzes falter Walter fang whang fare ware fares wares fare wear fares wears faring wearing fate wait fated waited fating waiting fates waits fate weight fated weighted fating weighting fates weights faugh war faugh wore faun warn fauns warns fawn warn fawns warns fawning warning fawned warned favour waiver favours waivers favour waver favoured wavered favouring wavering favours wavers Fawley Warley fear Wear fear weir fears weirs feared weird feather weather feathered weathered feathering weathering feathers weathers Feb web fed wed fee we fee wee fees wees feeing weeing feed weed feeding weeding feeds weeds feet wheat feign wain feigns wains feign wane feigns wanes feigned waned feigning waning fell well felling welling fells wells felled weld fen wen fens wens fence whence fend wend fended wended fending wending fends wends ferry wherry ferries wherries fête wait fêted waited fêting waiting fêtes waits fête weight fêted weighted fêting weighting fêtes weights fetid wetted fetter wetter fever weaver fevers weavers fey way fie why fie Y field wield fielded wielded fielding wielding fields wealds fiend weaned fiery wiry fife wife fig Whig figs Whigs fig wig figs wigs fight Wight fight white fights whites fighter whiter fighting whiting file while filed whiled files whiles filing whiling fill will fills wills filling willing filled willed filly Willie fillies willies finch winch finches winches find whined find wind finding winding finds winds fine whine fines whines fining whining fined whined fine wine fines wines fining wining fined wined finer whiner fir were fir whirr firs whirrs fire wire fired wired fires wires firing wiring firm worm firmed wormed firming worming firms worms first worst firsts worsts fish wish fishes wishes fishing wishing fished wished fishbone wishbone fishbones wishbones fist whist fitness witness five wive fives wives foaled wold foe whoa foe woe foes woes fold wold folds wolds folk woke follow wallow followed wallowed following wallowing follows wallows folly Wally fond wand fonder wander font want fonts wants fop whop fops whops for war for wore fore war fore wore four war fours wars four wore ford ward forded warded fording warding fords wards foreign warren fork walk forked walked forking walking forks walks form warm formed warmed forming warming forms warms former warmer found wound full wool fully woolly fun one fur were fur whirr furs whirrs furl whirl furled whirled furling whirling furls whirls phase ways Phil Will Seaford seaward unfed unwed
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, October 2010.