zh sound /ʒ/
How to pronounce the zh sound
The zh sound is voiced (the vocal cords vibrate during its production), and is the counterpart to the unvoiced sh sound.
To create the zh sound, air is forced between a wide groove in the center of the front of the tongue and the back of the tooth ridge. The sides of the blade of the tongue may touch the side teeth. The lips are kept slightly tense, and may protrude somewhat during the production of the sound.
This sound is a continuous consonant, meaning that it should be capable of being held for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration.
Common zh sound spellings
Few consonant sounds seem to have as complicated of spelling patterns as the zh sound. Many non-native English speakers find it easier to memorize the words that are pronounced with this sound than to memorize the intricate spelling patterns that govern this sound. Since it is not a frequent sound in American English, the memorization method has merit.
: ge spelling
The ge spelling for the zh sound usually, but not exclusively, occurs the end of words. Also note that the j sound pronunciation of the ge (as in the words age and huge) is much more common than the zh sound.
The zh sound in suffixes
: -sion suffix
The -sion suffix is only likely to be pronounced with a zh sound when it is preceded by an r sound or a vowel sound (as in the words version and invasion). In most other circumstances, the sh sound is the more likely pronunciation for this suffix.
The zh sound before suffixes
The -ure suffix and -al suffixes do not contain a zh sound within them. However, when these suffixes are preceded by the letter s or s+u, the letter s may be pronounced as a zh sound.
: s+ure spelling
If the s+ure spelling is preceded by a vowel sound, the word is likely pronounced with the zh sound. When the letter s is preceded by a consonant sound or is spelled with two adjacent letter s's (as in the words pressure and insure), it is usually pronounced as the sh sound.