The F and V Sounds

f (four, lift, graph, tough)

v ( love, knives, grave, vine)

English Pronunciation, Lesson 20

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In English, the F and V sounds are often studied together because they are produced in the same part of the mouth. They both are consonant fricatives too. What does that mean? Read on to find out.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

Consonant Fricatives

A consonant is any letter in the alphabet that is not a vowel (vowels = a, e, i, o, u). Fricatives are consonants that are formed by stopping the air flow somewhere in the vocal tract, and then forcing the air through to produce a friction sound. With the F and V sounds, the air is stopped by pushing the bottom lip and top teeth together. The air is then pushed through to create the sound.

There are 9 fricatives in the English language: v sound, f sound, voiced th sound, unvoiced th sound, z sound, s sound, zh sound, sh sound, and h sound. (We will discuss these sounds in later lessons.)

f sound

The voiceless F sound (IPA symbol: f) is produced by stopping and releasing air between the bottom lip and the front side of the top teeth. 

This sound can be found in English words such as friend, for, laugh, after, life, phone, and stuff.

Pronunciation Tip: Do not curl your lip too far under your top teeth to make this sound.  This is a common error many language students make. This makes it difficult to connect the F sound to other sounds in a word.

v sound

The voiced V sound (IPA symbol: v) is produced in almost the same way as the F sound. Hold your lips and teeth in the same position. The V sound is different because it is voiced, meaning you produce a sound with your vocal chords. It can be found in English words such as love, knives, wolves, Valentine, and wave.
The only difference between these two sounds is that the F sound is a voiceless sound and the V sound is a voiced sound.

In the English language, we use many voiced sounds. That means that the vocal cords vibrate when you say that letter. You can hear a voiced V sound in words such as "vine" and "cave."

The letter F is a voiceless sound because the vocal cords do not vibrate. Instead, we use a puff of air to produce the sound. If you hold a piece of paper in front of your mouth when pronouncing a voiceless sound, the paper should move from the puff of air.

You can hear the voiceless F sound in words such as "for" and "wife."

Watch this short video from Rachel's English to hear and see the differences between the F and V sounds:

Have you watched it? Excellent! Now, let's practice saying each sound individually.

Practice the voiced V sound

Practice the voiced V sound by saying these words. Hold a piece of paper or your hand in front of your mouth to make sure you are voicing the consonant and not using a puff of air. The paper should not move.

  • vacation

  • five

  • love

  • knives

  • wolves

  • save

  • van

  • vine

  • drive

  • cave

Now practice the voiceless F sound

Use a piece of paper to practice the voiceless F sound. When you say this sound, you should release a puff of air from your mouth that moves the paper. Your vocal cords should not vibrate.

The F sound can be spelled in four different ways: f, ff, ph, and sometimes gh.

  • four

  • wife

  • knife

  • life

  • family

  • stuff

  • phone

  • graph

  • laugh

  • enough

Finally, practice the sounds side-by-side

Practice these two sounds side-by-side. Say one word from the V column, and then say one word from the F column. Remember to voice the V sound and use a puff of air for the F sound!

love free
vine rough
have cough
visit graph
drive lift
save file
heavy phone
harvest fun

Challenge words:
These words are a little more difficult. They have both sounds. The V sounds are in blue. The F sounds are in green:

  • five

  • favoriteman talking

  • favor

  • flavor

  • forgive

  • lifesaver

  • leftover

  • forgive

Now say these sentences out loud.

The V sounds are in blue. The F sounds are in green:

1) His wife will drive the van.

2) I have five knives and four forks.

3) Will you phone before you visit the farm?

4) My family loves to laugh on vacation.

5) Save the four wolves who live in the cave.

6) Please forgive me for forgetting the leftover food!

Have you finished them all? Great job! Keep practicing until you can say them correctly!

great job

Well done! You have completed this lesson.

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)

Lesson 32: T and TT Sounds (true T sound, D sound, stop sound, silent T)

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