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English Pronunciation: Th Sounds

Th Sounds

There are two sounds for the Th. There is either a smooth sound or a popped sound. Both are made from the basic TH position: the tongue is slightly between the teeth in a relaxed position. Some people can make this sound with the tongue just behind the front teeth.*

The smooth sound of TH is only used with common words. Begin by using this list:

the       that      this       there    then     those    these    though   other  rather   mother   father     they    their

These words are pronounced with a vibrating or voiced Th. Leave your tongue in the Th position for a moment and let the sound vibrate as air leaves your mouth. This is a reduced sound and applies to very common words. The words have been smoothed through every day use.

Most words that begin with Th are pronounced with the more known popped sound. The tongue is between the teeth and the sound  pops out as the tongue is pulled backward. This is the sound we hear in words like these: 

think    thistle   thought    thank you   thin      thick    thrust     thermometer  theory

*In some languages, there is no Th or the Th is pronounced as a D or Z. It is important for learners from these backgrounds to master the Th sounds. If the Th is popped all the time and never voiced, it may also sound like a D to people who expect a softer sound. Both D and Z are made with the tongue touching the roof (which is the top) of the mouth. To make sure you are making a TH sound, put your tongue slightly between your teeth.

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