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Accent Reduction Blog

How to Pronounce “TH” Sounds

If you speak English as your second language or if you’re just learning English right now, you might find that there are some sounds in the English language that are harder to say than others. One of these is the “Th.” It is spelled with “Th”, but we pronounce it as a voiceless sound–just air coming out–or the same motion with the voice.

The Ways the “Th” Sound is Mispronounced

Now, some people have trouble with this sound because it doesn’t exist in their language or if it does exist in spelling, it might be pronounced in a different way. So some of the ways that people mispronounce the “TH” sound can be like:

  • An “F” so instead of saying “think” or “thumb” they might say “fink” or “fumb”
  • Another way it might be mispronounced is with an “S” sound in the beginning so we would have “sink” instead of “think” and “some” instead of “thumb”
  • The last way that I find people mispronouncing this sound would be pronouncing it as a “T” so we would have “tink” instead of “think” and “tum” instead of “thumb”

The Voiced “Th” Sound

When we talk about the voiced “TH” sound, some of the common mistakes I find people are making:

  • Substitute a “Z” for the “TH” so they might say “zuh” instead of “the” and “zeez” or “zat” instead of “these” and “that”
  • Another way might be to pronounce it with a “V.” They say “vuh” instead of “the” and “vat” instead of “that”
  • And the last way is that they might be saying it like a “D” sound so they say “duh” instead of “the” and “dat” instead of “that”

How to Actually Make the “Th” Sound

Alright, so let’s figure out how we actually make this sound. What you need to do is let your tongue go between your teeth and just stick it out a little bit. You don’t want to stick it out too much or you could end up looking like a lizard. We don’t want that!

Put your tongue between your teeth. Do not bite down hard on your tongue or no sound will be able to get out. You just have to lightly have your tongue between your teeth and your top teeth are against the top of your tongue. Then you let some air go across lightly. We say the word “thumb” in this way and “think” or at end of a word “bath”, “mouth” and “with.”

Ok, now we try the voiced “TH” sound. We do exactly the same thing only we add voicing to it. So we’ll say the word “the.” Start out tongue between the teeth. Air slides over top of tongue with voicing: “the” and “that” or at the end of a word, “breathe” and “smooth.” Why don’t you give it a try? “Think”, “thumb”, “this”, “that”, “bath”, “with”, “breathe”, “smooth.” Ok great!

Learn American Standard Pronunciation

If you’d like to find out any more information about learning American English pronunciation or the accent reduction program that I teach click below for information about a free pronunciation screening:

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About the Author

Derra Huxley, M.A.Derra Huxley is a California licensed Speech-Language Pathologist in Los Angeles having earned both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Northridge. You can also find her on , Twitter and Facebook. She specializes in Accent Modification, having been trained and certified to utilize the nationally acclaimed Compton P-ESL Program through the Institute of Language and Phonology. She has worked with adults with varying degrees of accents from around the globe to improve their pronunciation of English.View all posts by Derra Huxley, M.A.