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Ask Doctor English
Your ESL and English language learning specialist. Ask Dr. English whatever you like about the English language.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Here is a chance for you to have your questions answered by Doctor English. Today’s question is:

How do you pronounce the “TH” in many words?

Pronunciation of the English language can be a challenge, which is why this is a great question to ask. As with many constant sounds, “TH” can be voiced or unvoiced. (If you are not sure of the difference between voiced and unvoiced, voiced sounds are like “B” and “V” and unvoiced are like “P” and “F”). The voiced “TH” is in words such as in this, their, they. The unvoiced “TH” is in words such as in thick, fifth and tooth. Notice the difference in your tongue when you pronounce the voiced or unvoiced form.

The difficulty however, is knowing when to pronounce the voiced or the unvoiced “TH”. This depends on the position of “TH” in the word. In the initial position, the "TH" is voiced in function words such as pronouns, articles, and demonstrative adjectives (they, them, etc.). In the medial position, it is voiced when followed by "er" or a final silent "e" (feather, mother, etc.). In the final position it is voiceless with one exception: "smooth". Keep in mind, that in English there are always exceptions to the rule!

Thank you for sending your questions. If you have any further queries, please email Doctor English at drenglish@vec.ca.


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