TH Consonant Sounds

ð (the, father, them)

θ (think, birthday, south)

English Pronunciation, Lesson 30

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In English, the TH consonant sounds are studied together because they share the same spelling and are made in the same part of the mouth. There are two TH consonant sounds. One is voiced, and the other is unvoiced. In this lesson, you will learn and practice the differences between these two English sounds.

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How to pronounce the TH consonant sounds

The TH consonant sounds are the only pair of sounds in English that share the same spelling. They also take the same mouth shape.

The voiceless (unvoiced) TH sound (IPA symbol: θ) can be found in English words such as think, thing, teeth, birthday, bath, and both.

The voiced TH sound (IPA symbol: ð) can be found in English words such as the, them, those, father, together, brother, and breathe.

letter TLetter H

Voiced and voiceless sounds

What are voiced and voiceless sounds? Let's review.

In the English language, we use many voiced sounds. That means that the vocal cords vibrate to make the sound.

These are some of the voiced sounds in English:

When a sound is voiceless or unvoiced, the vocal cords do not vibrate when you make the sound. Instead, you release air out of your mouth to make the sound.

These are some of the voiceless sounds in English:

To make the voiced and unvoiced TH sounds, place the tip of your tongue between your top and bottom teeth. It should not stick out very far. Then blow air through the space between your tongue and your top teeth. You also blow air through the top teeth. This makes the unvoiced TH sound (IPA symbol: θ). It is a natural sound.

When you add your voice, you make the voiced TH sound (IPA symbol: ð). It is a buzzing sound similar to the Z sound but with a different tongue position.

Sometimes your tongue will not stick through your top and bottom teeth to make the voiced TH sound. When linking words together,your tongue is sometimes placed right behind your top teeth.

Let's practice these two sounds with Rachel from Rachel's English:

Have you watched the video? Good! Let's practice a few more words.

Let's practice!

Because the voiced and voiceless TH sounds share the exact same spelling, it is difficult to know how to pronounce new words that have the TH spelling. There are more words in English with the voiceless TH sound than the voiced TH sound.

You should use a dictionary or online pronunciation guide to learn the pronunciation of new vocabulary words.

Practice the voiceless TH sound: θ 

Practice the voiceless TH sound by saying these words aloud. Remember that this TH sound is not voiced. Your vocal cords do not vibrate when you make this sound. Make sure you are only using air to make the sound.

Voiceless TH at the beginning of a word:
  • think

  • thin

  • thing

  • thanks

  • thirty

  • Thursday

  • three

  • thumb

  • third

  • thirteen

Voiceless TH in the middle of a word:
  • bathtub

  • toothpick

  • birthday

  • healthy

  • something

  • anything

  • athlete

Voiceless TH at the end of a word:
  • math

  • tooth

  • teeth

  • tenth

  • ninth

  • fifth

  • breath

  • earth

  • mouth

  • south

  • north

Practice the voiced TH sound: ð

Now, let's practice the voiced TH sound. Remember to use air and your voice to make this buzzing sound. 

Voiced TH at the beginning of a word:

The voiced TH sound is common in English pronouns and demonstratives.
  • that

  • this

  • them

  • the

  • their

  • there

  • they're

  • those

  • they

  • these

Voiced TH in the middle of a word:
  • feather

  • weather

  • father

  • brother

  • mother

  • clothing

  • clothes

  • either

  • other

  • another

Voiced TH at the end of a word:
  • breathe

  • bathe

  • smooth

Finally, practice the sounds side-by-side

Remember to voice the words in the green boxes and use only air for the words in the blue boxes!

voiceless TH
voiced TH
thin then
think these
third them
Thanks either
birthday brother
bathtub clothing
healthy worthy
math smooth
breath breathe

Now say these sentences out loud.

The voiceless TH sounds are in blue. Use only air to make these sounds.

The voiced TH sounds are in green. Use air and your voice to make these buzzing sounds.

1) I think it is Thursday.

2) It is his thirteenth birthday today.

3) You can clean your teeth with a thin toothpick.

4) They should ask their father or their mother.

5) The other clothes are new.

6) There is another feather over there.

7) That thing is bigger than that other thing.

8) Those three boys will be three this Thursday, October ninth.

9) There is something in that dog's mouth.

10) My brother said the weather is warmer in the south than in the north.

Have you finished this lesson? Don't worry if you don't get it all right the first time. The TH sounds can be difficult to learn. If you want to review this lesson, you can return to the top of the page.

Keep practicing the words and sentences to master these sounds.

Click Here for the American Accent Audio Course.

Let's move on...

List of Lessons

Lesson 01: International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Lesson 02: Word Stress and Syllables

Lesson 03: Long E sound (meet, see)

Lesson 04: Short I Sound (sit, hit)

Lesson 05: UH Sound (put, foot)

Lesson 06: OO Sound (moon, blue)

Lesson 07: Short E sound (pen, bed)

Lesson 08: Schwa Sound (the, about)

Lesson 09: UR Sound (turn, learn)

Lesson 10: OH Sound (four, store)

Lesson 11: Short A Sound (cat, fat)

Lesson 12: UH Sound (but, luck)

Lesson 13: Soft A Sound (arm, father)

Lesson 14: Long O Sound (boat, know)

Lesson 15: Long A Sound (say, pain, make)

Lesson 16: Short O Sound (not, off, socks)

Lesson 17: Diphthong (a combination of two vowel sounds)

Lesson 18: P Sound (cup, punch, pull) and B sound (cub, bunch, bull)

Lesson 19: The Nasal Sounds (M, N, NG)

Lesson 20: F Sound (four, lift, graph, tough) and V Sound (love, knives, grave, vine)

Lesson 21: W Sound (wow, quit, where)

Lesson 22: R Sound (red, sorry, write)

Lesson 23: H Sound (he, behind, who)

Lesson 24: T Sound (top, it, later) and D Sound (do, had, made)

Lesson 25: S Sound (sit, box, cats) and Z Sound (zip, buzz, boys)

Lesson 26: K Sound (kid, talk, black) and G Sound (go, big, dog)

Lesson 27: L Sound: Light L & Dark L (tall, like, English)

Lesson 28: Y Consonant Sound (yes, you, beyond)

Lesson 29: CH Sound (China, century, watch) and J Sound (Germany, educate , judge)

Lesson 30: TH Consonant Sounds – voiced TH sound (the, father, them) and voiceless (unvoiced) TH sound (think, birthday, south)

Lesson 31: SH (shop, chef, special) and ZH (usual, massage, Asia)

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