TH Sound

th sound

Introduction

That thing is with this thing.


The written “th” appears in English a lot. In fact, in the 100 most frequent words used in English, “th” appears in 10 of those, including the no.1 most frequent word “the“! With this much use you will want to get it right, however it isn’t the easiest of sounds to make. This is a common problem sound for learners of all backgrounds.

First of all, it needs to be stated that the th sound is actually two sounds:


/ð/ = voiced dental fricative (that, those, the)


/θ/ = voiceless dental fricative (threw, thin, thistle)


Both require you to use the same position for tongue, teeth and lips. The difference comes with the use of the voice box for the voiced sound.


Voiceless TH Pronunciation

Position 1

We start with a relaxed mouth, the teeth can be slightly apart if it feels natural and the tongue can stay relaxed at the bottom of the mouth.

th pronunciation 1

Position 2

Next we need to do two things at the same time:

  1. Push the tongue forwards so it sits in the middle of the top and bottom teeth.
  2. At the same time you need to start pushing air out (like when we make an /s/ sound). At first it will be easy as there isn’t much resistance. As the tongue gets closer to the teeth it will make the gap for air to escape smaller and will create pressure.
th pronunciation 2

Position 3

The last thing we need to do is open up all of the mouth to let the air escape.

th pronunciation 3

Voiced TH Pronunciation

Position 1

Just like with the voiceless sound we start with a relaxed mouth.

th pronunciation 1

Position 2

In position 2 we again need to do the same with our tongue. However, this time there are some differences:

  1. We still let a little bit of air out but there is a lot less this time. It is a much more relaxed feeling.
  2. We vibrate the voice box a little as our tongue reaches its final position.
th pronunciation 2

Position 3

In the final position we again open our mouth but as there isn’t much air pressure, most of the sound will come from the voice box creating a vowel sound.

th pronunciation 3

TH Word List

Now that you have learnt how to make both voiced and voiceless th sounds, it’s time to practise them with the list of words below. These are some of the most frequently used words in English that use the th sounds.


the

that

they

this

there

their

think

them

then

three

these

thing

than

those

through

thought

themselves

things

though

theory

thousand

thank

therefore

third

thus

thirty

thinking

throw

threat

thin


Practicing The TH Sound

It’s important to practise this sound often. It will be difficult at first but don’t slip into old habits. Something that helps dramatically improve the pronunciation is by using TH Tongue Twisters. These will give you more dexterity and get you used to going between the th sound and other similar sounds.