EN th sound

Pronouncing “th” in English

 

When many people are asked about the most difficult aspect of learning any language, the most common answer is speaking as this normally involves people trusting in their own ability to get the words out rather than just listening to someone else and understanding them when someone is talking.

Today we are going to focus on how to pronounce the “th” combination in English. There are two different sounds, but a lot of people always pronounce them the same.

Both are made by putting your tongue between your teeth so that the tip of your tongue is touching your teeth.

TH – voiced dental fricative /ð/

This TH sounds like “this” and is a soft sound.
To pronounce this TH, place the tip of your tongue between your top and bottom teeth and vibrate your vocal cords – it’s quite fun!

Words that have the /ð/ sound are:
– than
– then
– this
– weather
– smooth
– other

TH – voiceless dental fricative /θ/

Words with this TH are, for example, “thing” and “thought”. It is a much stronger sound.
To pronounce this TH, do the same: place the tip of your tongue between your teeth but just blow air through your mouth without vibrating your vocal cords.

Words that have the /θ/ sound are:
– thank
– think
– therapy
– moth
– path
– youth

If you want to hear these sounds out loud, just watch the video below:

At ABA English, we would like you to continue learning which is why you can sign up to our course for completely free and get access to 144 video classes ranging from beginner to advanced level for free. These classes, along with other grammar materials and exercises will allow you to keep practising different grammar point as you progress through them. Start studying with us today and make great progress quickly.

Get free access to 144 video classes

About Kate

Kate
Kate a enseñado inglés en varios países alrededor del mundo, desde Camboya a España. Es una apasionada de la comida, la lectura y el mundo del aprendizaje.

31 comments

  1. Roxana Ramírez

    I think it was very helpfull for my pronunciation and will be really important to practice and repeat it many time.

    Thanks you for you help

    • Kate

      We’re very happy it will help you Roxana! And you’re right, learning a language is all about repeating so just listen to a lot of movies and videos and repeat – like a parrot! 🙂

      • hi teacher kate. i have a question which is how i can know of the word is voiceless or voiced dental fircative?

        • Kate

          Hi Al,

          Thanks for your question! The “Voiced Dental Fricative” is a very soft “th” sound whereas the “Voiceless Dental Fricative” has a harder “th” sound. Have another read of the blog to see examples of types of words which have the soft and hard sounds. 🙂

  2. Hello Aba!

    I like this article, it’s very useful.

    Happens to me that sounds the same.

    I hope that with the help of this article can pronounce them better, as it is.

    Have a good weekend!

    Belinda

  3. I’d like this exercise, because it learn to say the correct way to pronunce th, in spanish not exist this vocabulary and it’s difficult more who we’re not native speakers.

    Thanks, regards.

  4. Hi ABA, I really understand the meaning of “TH” now…it was difficulty to me understand lol
    Could you please give me more examples of words? I really want (and need) to practice a littlle more…
    Thank you o lot for this amazing lesson!
    Have a nice weekend!
    Beth

  5. THis isn´t so diffucult to produce if you are teaching Spanish L1 speakers…give them the SPANISH “Z” sound in ZAPATO and the “D” as in “DUENDE” and help them make lists of the English words correspondingly!!
    By the way I had my dentures made lately and certainly my production of the TH sound was affected realy and truly …lol !

    • Kate

      Hahaha, well Maru, I’m glad the dentures helped! 🙂

      You’re right, it is a mix of the Spanish D and Z sounds.

  6. Thanks a lot…it’s make me to understand how to correct my prounoun…cause i’m just learn about english language…like a beginner student…:D. So,i’m so sorry if my type is wrong….:D
    And i wanna like u, very good english…

  7. Thank you so much! your video was really helpful 🙂 Ill be practicing a lot, as you said that the most important thing about learning a language is practicing. Thanks again and regards.

  8. Thank you for teaching how to pronounce “th” . I thought I had always been pronouncing it correctly until I saw this video. Before you taught how to pronounce it, I used to pronounce “th” that have sound /ð/ in words like ‘than’ the letter “d”. And i used to pronounce “th” that have the sound /θ/ in words like ‘thank’ the letter ‘t’ (wherein I place the tip of my tongue behind my top teeth). Btw i’m a Filipino that migrated to Australia at the age of 15 but I know how to speak english since i was little (Phillippines’ 2nd language is English, it is always use in school’s literature).

  9. How about this sentence:
    “We are going away for a couple of months, so pack accordingly”.

    If find pronouncing first “months” and then followed by “so” very difficult.
    Is there a third way used here, so that I’m actually doing it wrong, or is it my pronunciation of “months” that makes it so difficult?

    It would be great if anyone could help me!

    • Kate

      Hi Nicolai,

      As a native English speaker, when I say it, it sounds much like: “monthsso”, both words are united because they end and begin with the same sound.

      Pronouncing the “th” and an “s” is a little bit difficult, but with a bit of practice you will succeed! 🙂

  10. Kate

    Excellent! Keep on practicing Mike 🙂

  11. Hi. Thank you for the funny tips! 🙂
    With your permission I’m going to use it in my demo and class.
    Thank you again.

  12. 34 year old native English. I always pronounce it as a ‘f’ sound, not many people notice and even less comments have been made over the years. I tried your tips above and it sounded slightly better but I think it’d be a lot of hard work to remember all them words and re-train a full sound.

  13. can you tell me how difference when pronouncing /ð/ between American English and British English?

  14. I need a lot of help pronouncing th, I’m not new to Canada, I know English,but I pronounce th like a f, so earth turns into earf, my classmates always tease me about it, please help, thanks.

    • Kate

      Hi Danesh, we have a series on youtube to help students pronounce words correctly in English. You will find several videos of words with “th”, like “thoroughly” and “throughout”. You can check them out here and practice 🙂

  15. I found this the most helpful piece of information about the pronunciation of ‘th’ sounds. Only having trouble with saying it after words that have ‘ih’ before ‘th’, like smith. Thanks so much.

  16. Hi, this was very useful and thanks a lot!!
    I have some difficulties in pronouncing words with ‘tr’ and could u give a video on pronouncing tr words plss….

  17. Hey, thank you for your video. I read a book from mr. Daniel Jones and mr. Peter Roach where both gantlemans describe this “th” sounds this way.

    “The dental fricatives are sometimes describe as if the tongue were placed between the teeth, and it is common for teachers to make their students do this when they are trying to teach them to make this sound. In fact, however, the tongue is normally placed BEHIND the teeth…”

    So..Do you use your tongue like in the video above in your normal life or this is a way for teaching foreign people speak in the english?

    Thank you

    Have a nice day

    Vaculka Tomáš

    • Kate

      Hello!
      Normally we teach our students the “th” sound by showing them to put their tongue between their teeth.
      But once you know how to pronounce it correctly, you’ll place your tongue behind your teeth.
      Have a great day & keep on practising! 🙂

  18. I am English, but I used to, and still do sometimes, pronounce the “Th” sound as an “F” sound. However, since 2011 I have been (believingly) correcting myself to say the correct pronunciation when saying words that have “th” in them.! My only problem is can’t actually hear a difference between both the “th” and “f” sounds. I can sometimes hear a slight difference when people say it because “th” sounds softer than an “f”, but to me it just sounds exactly the same, but with an added lisp. When I say the different sounds I can’t actually hear the difference; I just know to put my tongue between my teeth when I pronounce the word, but it just sounds like a lispy “f” sound… ☹️️

  19. A nice course indeed,pls keep it up!

  20. As a native English speaker I have never used the ‘th’ in ‘wiTH as an unvoiced sound. I feel if it is pronounced in a voiceless style it sounds like the person (perthon) is (ith) speaking with a lisp (lithp).

    If you were to say ‘with this…’ in a sentence then you are suggesting that two sounds are being made for both ‘th’ sounds, an unvoiced and a voiced TH. To make these two separate sounds when linking these words together would make life very difficult for non-native speakers to form sentences. In speech these two words would actually sound like one word – wiTHis, not wiTH (unvoiced) THis (voiced).

  21. Thanks alot