Sound

English Pronunciation

Consonant Fricatives: voiced and unv th /ð,θ/

Listen:
unvoiced th sound
voiced th sound

ESL/ELL/EFL th sound English pronunciation

voiced th/unvoiced th illustration

Practice sentence: Think about this thing, that thing, and those things.

The voiced th and unvoiced th sounds are the only pair that share a single, common spelling. For that reason, they are presented together in this ESL/ELL pronunciation lesson.

How to pronounce the th sounds

With the exception of being voiced or unvoiced, the voiced th and unvoiced th are nearly identical; the tip of the tongue is placed behind the top front teeth. The friction occurs between the tip of the tongue and the top front teeth. Subtle friction may also occur between the top of the front of the tongue and the tooth ridge. The lips are kept relaxed during the production of these sounds.

An alternative method of producing the th sounds is to place the tip of the tongue between the top and bottom front teeth. While this method will produce the correct sound, it often creates difficulties transitioning to and from other sounds. This is because the tongue needs to be so much further forward when between the front teeth as compared to behind the top front teeth.

These sounds are continuous consonants, meaning that they should be capable of being held for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration. Because the sounds are fricatives, the majority of the sound comes from the friction of the air traveling through a small opening in the vocal tract.


Common th sounds spellings

spelling example   other pronunciations for spelling
th
(unvoiced)



(voiced)

think
method
bath

them
mother
smooth






none

Since the voiced th and unvoiced th sounds share the exact same spelling pattern, ESL/ELL students must memorize the pronunciation of new vocabulary words as they are learned. In general, the voiced th sound occurs in far fewer words than the unvoiced th. However, the voiced th sound is more common in function words (such as articles, pronouns, and demonstratives). For example, the function words the, that, them, these, they, their (and more), are pronounced with a voiced th.


The th sounds in suffixes

none

Non-phonetic th sounds

none


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Exercises

voiced th or unvoiced th

th sounds paragraph practice

t sound/unvoiced th Minimal Pairs

d sound/voiced th Minimal Pairs

th sound + r sound practice

Quizzes

Fricative Sounds Minimal Sets

Sound Practice

fricative th (voiced)

fricative th (unvoiced)

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