"TH" is a sound that many non-English speakers find the most problems with pronouncing. Yet it should not be thought of as difficult to learn.

Because many Romance languages lack the "TH" sounds, it is merely a lack of experience which is at the root of the problems.

There are, in fact two "TH" sounds.

The first, "Ө" called Voiceless, may be heard in the word "bath". To produce this sound, place your tongue between your front teeth, with the tip slightly protruding, and then blow.

Stand in front of a mirror then bite the tip of your tongue and blow. Try making this sound five times, feel how your tongue and mouth shape to achieve this sound.

Now say "BAA" [the sound English sheep make] biting the tip of your tongue after and blowing. Repeat five times and gradually speed up.

Now say "bar" [as in a pub] and make the "TH" sound at the end. You will notice that the "a" elongates, whilst the "r" merges into the "TH" and produces "bath" [bɑ:Ө].

Congratulations, you have mastered the Voiceless TH, "Ө".

The Voiced TH, "" uses a similar mouth position as the Voiceless. This time, unsurprisingly given its name, you need to use your voice as you blow.

Imagine that you are imitating the "ZZZ" buzz of a bee, hornet or wasp.

Stand before the mirror and make the "ZZZ" sound in your mouth. You should find that your tongue is vibrating against the roof of your mouth.

As you make the sound, push your tongue between your teeth allowing it to touch only the upper set. Gradually shorten the length of the "ZZZ" but blow out as you do so.

Now say the word "far", make the "ZZZ" sound, push your tongue forward, touch only your top teeth and repeat five times, shortening the "ZZZ" each time until you saying "farth" [fɑ:].

Now add the sound "er" [ɜ:] at the end. Repeat this five times until you are saying the word "Father" [fɑ:ɜ:].

Now you have the basic tools to pronounce the two forms of "TH", you should practise with the words in the list below:


VOICELESS Ө                                             VOICED

THICK                   [Өık]                       THIS                      [ıs]

THIN                    [Өın]                        THAT                    [ӕt]

THING                  [Өıŋ]                                         THESE                   [∂ız]              

THUNDER            ['Өʌndə]               THOSE                  [əƱz]

THOUGHT           [Өɔ:t]                      THOUGH             [əƱ]

BATH                    [bɑ:Ө]                    BATHER                [beıə]

BOTH                   [ƱӨ]                   BOTHER               [ə]

FIFTH                   [fıfӨ]                      FATHER                [fɑ:ə]

PATH                    [pɑ:Ө]                    BOOTH                 [bu:]

PITH                     [pıӨ]                       FEATHER              [ə]

SOUTH                 [ƱӨ]                   SOUTHERN          [ən]

TRUTH                 [tru:Ө]                    SMOOTH             [smu:]

TWELFTH             [twelӨ]                 LEATHER              [ə]

ANTHEM             ['ӕnӨəm]             RHYTHM              ['əm]

RUTHLESS           [ru:Өlıs]                WEATHER            [ə]

TOOTHLESS         [tu:Өlıs]                WHETHER            [ə]

GOTHIC                ['Өık]               ALTOGETHER      [ɔ:ltə'geə]

FILTH                     [fılӨ]                    ANOTHER            [ə'nʌə]


NOTICE: There are a number of words that do not follow these pronunciation rules. These words have a silent "h": 


THAMES              [temz]

THYME                 [tɑım]

and here the "th" is silent:

ASTHMA              [ӕsmə]


Some plurals can also have a different "th" pronunciation from their singular form:


BATH                    [bɑ:Ө]                           BATHS                  [bɑ:z]

PATH                    [pɑ:Ө]                           PATHS                  [pɑ:z]

TRUTH                 [tru:Ө]                          TRUTHS               [tru:z]


Other plurals do not change:


FIFTH                   [fıfӨ]                         FIFTHS                 [fıfӨs]

TWELFTH             [twelӨ]                    TWELFTHS           [twelӨs]


If you should still find problems with these sounds, it may be of comfort to you to know that approximately 20% of native English speakers have avoided using them altogether, replacing them with "f" for voiceless and "v" for voiced.

A peculiarity of the ever-changing English language is that the "th" sounds were originally pronounced "f" and "v".




 If you have seen signs such as "Ye Olde Shoppe",


 or handwritten manuscripts in which "ye" appears,


 it is pronounced "the" [ı]. Modern typefaces do not differentiate between "y" and the correct character sometimes called a Thorn. The word "ye" was symbolized by a thorn in the Old English rune alphabet, called the Futhark, which looks like an elongate "V", sometimes with a tail at the bottom and a curl on top of the right prong which resembled an "e". Originally this was written as yet another letter, pronounced "z",


The second form, also called a thorn, was written like "Pp"


and was pronounced as an "f" in voiceless “th” in words like "thimble".



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