S and Z Sounds
s:(sit, box, cats)
z:(zip, buzz, boys)
Pronunciation, Lesson 25
The S and Z
are often studied as a pair because they sound very
similar, and both sounds are made in the same
part of the mouth. There are some differences. The S
sound is voiceless,
and the Z sound is
. What does all of this mean? Read on to find out.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
How to pronounce the S and Z sounds
The voiceless (unvoiced)
can be found in English words such as s
e, and c
The voiced Z
can be found in English words such as z
, and is.
of these sounds are produced in the front part of your mouth.
When you make these sounds, your lips will be slightly open. Your teeth
should lightly touch in the front or be very close together. The front
of your tongue will touch the back of your lower teeth. The back of
your tongue touches the roof
of your mouth on the sides.
When making the S and Z
, air is pushed down the center of your
tongue and between
the tip of your tongue and your top teeth. The movement of the air
makes the S and Z sounds
The S sound is a hissing
sound like a snake.
The Z sound is like the
sound of buzzing bees.
In this video, Rachel from Rachel's English will show you how to position your mouth to make
each of these sounds.
Voiced and voiceless sounds
In the English language, we use many voiced sounds. That means
that the vocal cords
when you say that sound. The Z sound
is a voiced
sound because the vocal cords vibrate when you make the sound.
The S sound
is a voiceless or unvoiced sound because the vocal
cords do not vibrate
when you make the sound. Instead, we
use air to make the sound.
are five common spellings of the S sound: s/ss, ce, ci, sc, and x.
are three common spellings of the Z sound: z/zz, s, x.
Let's look at a few rules for some of the common spellings.
- s spelling (sit,
wise, dogs, cats)
The s spelling is sometimes pronounced as an S sound (sit, cats) and
sometimes as a Z sound (wise, dogs)
It is more likely to be pronounced as a Z sound if it comes
between two vowel sounds: wise,
are not many rules to help us know which sound is used, so it is very
important to learn the correct pronunciation of each new word.
- sc spelling
(science, descend, score)
sc spelling can be pronounced as an S
sound alone or as an S
+ K sound.
It is more likely to be pronounced as an S sound when it
comes in the
middle of a word, but not all words follow the rule.
S sound = muscle, descend, science
S + K sound = scream, score, scare
- x spelling
The x spelling can be pronounced in two different ways:
K + S sound = fix,
G + Z sound = example, exist
*Note: "Exit" can be pronounced as an K + S sound or G + Z sound. Either way is accepted.
Learn or review the K and G sounds here: English Pronunciation Lesson 26 - K and G Sounds.
It can be hard to know how to pronounce new words. You can use a dictionary
or online pronunciation guide to help you learn the correct
pronunciation of new vocabulary words.
voiceless S sound
Practice the voiceless S
by saying these words:
Now practice the
voiced Z sound
(s + k sound)
(s + k sound)
let's practice the voiced
. Remember, your vocal cords should vibrate when
you make this sound because it is a voiced sound.
practice the sounds side-by-side
Remember to voice the Z sound
and use only air for the
These are more
challenging words. Some of these words even have both sounds! Practice
The S sounds
are in blue
are in green
Now say these sentences out loud.
The S sounds
are in blue
are in green
3) The s
and cats s
ide the hous
4) He was s
5) The s
high in the s
and girls s
on the fenc
7) The sc
took the firs
Remember to practice these two sounds together, so you can
learn their differences! Practice them slowly to hear how they sound.
Let's move on...
List of Lessons
Lesson 01: International
Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
Lesson 02: Word
Stress and Syllables
Lesson 03: Long E
Lesson 04: Short I
Lesson 05: UH Sound
OO Sound (moon,
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
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,
Lesson 28: Y
Consonant Sound (yes,
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,
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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