How to say the voiced th

Th makes a voiced or unvoiced sound, depending on the word. The only difference is that one is voiced, and the other is unvoiced.

To make the voiced th sound, open your mouth slightly, and make a vowel sound. As you’re making the vowel sound, slowly bring your tongue towards your teeth. When the sound changes, and your tongue starts to vibrate, you are making the th sound. The tip of your tongue will be between your teeth, almost touching your teeth.

This is a soft action; don’t do anything forceful when saying the th. Also the th is not a short sound; make it somewhat long. (The th is a sound that is possible to hold continuously, as long as you have air in your lungs.)

Some sentences to practice the voiced th sound: (“with” has the unvoiced th sound, but the other examples of th in these sentences are all voiced.)

Their mother was gathering the clothing together.
They’ve had a lot of bother with the weather.
They’d rather gather those berries with their mother.
There’s their brother, together with their father.
Therefore they’d rather go together.
They should ask their father or their mother.
There is another feather over there.
They’d rather bathe with their clothing on.

Intonation and Sentence Stress

English has a melody and a rhythm. To sound like an American and be easily understood, you’ll need to learn the melody and rhythm of English. Also this melody and rhythm changes depending on the situation, for example a statement can be made into a question using intonation, and emotion is often expressed with intonation.

If you sing or play a musical instrument this will be easy for you. I also think it will be easy for speakers of Latin and Germanic languages. But having (supposedly) no musical ability isn’t a reason not to try learning the music of English; there are Americans who think they have no musical abilities, no sense of pitch or rhythm, and in fact they might not be able to carry a tune (sing on pitch); but they speak English with perfect intonation and rhythm. (Most Americans aren’t even aware of how musical spoken English is.)

The important thing to focus on is sentence stress; which words in a sentence or phrase get stressed. Stressed words are louder and higher in pitch.

As would be expected, the words that get stressed are the important words. These are the content words; if you remove a content word from a sentence, you’ll be missing something essential. Nouns, primary verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and negative words (can’t, wouldn’t, don’t) get stress. Think of stressed words as words that need to be heard clearly. Consider, for example, that at least nine out of ten times, numbers get stress. Also, stress is used when clarifying or specifying. For example: “Are the violets red?” “No, the roses are red.” The most stressed word in the second sentence is “roses.” Obviously, intonation can only be heard. But it’s important enough that when writing, bold and italic fonts are used on some words, in addition to emoticons, as ways to communicate what would normally be indicated by intonation.

In a sentence, words vary in stress. For example, consider this sentence: “As you know I flew with this man Striker during the war.” The words that are stressed the most are Striker and war; you, know, and flew also receive stress.

You can listen to that sentence here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73UfgMoWv8E

There are usually a couple different ways of saying the intonation of a phrase without a significant change in what is being expressed; so if you say something differently than how you hear a native speaker say it, your intonation might still be correct.

Listen to American speech, and copy it. First, ignore the words, and just say “la” for each syllable, like you’re singing. It might be easier to hear the melody in female voices. Here’s a video to start with, this one has lots of questions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVJvURqC8iY

Words with less syllables than it appears

It’s important to say all the syllables. But there are some words that have less syllables than you’d expect; the spelling of the words is misleading.

Vegetable only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the second E: veg-table
Hear vegetable.

Reference only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: ref-rence
Hear reference

Laboratory only has four syllables, not five. You can skip the first O: lab-ratory
Hear laboratory

Temperature only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the A: temper-ture
Hear temperature

This also applies to the plural forms of each of these words.

Here are some more:

Jewelry only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: jew-lry
Hear jewelry

Comfortable only has three syllables, not four. Pretend comfortable is spelled comfterble.
Hear comfortable

Vowels

Americans and Canadians like vowels. For good pronunciation and accent reduction, often vowels need to be held for a long time. Listen to some Americans talking, and pay attention to the length of the vowels. For example, listen to this scene from “Scary Movie”:

American English has 14 vowel sounds. The following words all have different vowel sounds and clearly sound different:

fall fell fill feel full fool file foul fail foil foal

hat hot hit heat hut hoot height hate

lack lock lick leak luck look Luke like lake

mat met mitt meet mutt moot might mate moat

Here’s a chart showing more lists of words like these: Vowel Chart

How To Say The Vowel In “Leave”

This vowel sound is the name of the letter E, and usually the letter E is part of the vowel.

The vowel in “leave” is made with the mouth almost closed and the tip of the tongue almost touching or slightly touching the back of the bottom front teeth, and the middle of the tongue lightly touching the roof of the mouth.

This sound is represented several ways in written English:

ee, for example feed, bleed, and green

ea, for example peach, leap, and meat

ie, for example thief, brief, and berries

y, at the end of a word, for example many, berry, tiny, salty, family, and rainy.

Note, the letter I by itself rarely makes the vowel in ‘leave.’ Click here to read more about the letter I

Pronunciation Exercises, Free Ebook

Here’s my book of pronunciation exercises. Most of the exercises use minimal pairs to help you hear and say the sounds of American English. I use this book when teaching English lessons:

Jonathan’s Pronunciation Exercises

Click here if you’re interested in taking English lessons to improve your pronunciation or fluency.

Learn English with an American Tutor

You can take lessons with me over Skype to improve your pronunciation or fluency.

I teach intermediate and advanced speakers of English. Lessons are 55 minutes.

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