English TH Sounds for Accent Reduction and Pronunciation

Make the TH sound by placing your tongue between your teeth. Your tongue should be under your top teeth. Your tongue, near the tip, should be touching the bottom of your top teeth but not pressed against them.

There are two TH sounds: Voiced TH and Unvoiced TH.
  • Unvoiced TH
  • With unvoiced TH, there is no vibration between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth when you make this sound. 
  • Here’s the unvoiced TH sound: TH - Ɵ. Here’s a word with unvoiced TH: Thoughtful

  • Voiced TH
  • With voiced TH, there is a vibration between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth when you make this sound. When you make the voiced TH sound, you should feel a vibration between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth.  
  • Here’s the voiced TH sound: TH - ð. Here’s a word with voiced TH: They
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Unvoiced TH
1. To make the unvoiced TH sound, place your tongue below your top teeth.
2. Your tongue, almost at the tip, should lightly touch the bottom of your top teeth.
3. You should still be able to allow air to pass between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth.
4. While your tongue is touching the bottom of your top teeth, push out air between your tongue and your teeth.

Here’s the unvoiced TH sound: TH - Ɵ. Here’s a word with unvoiced TH: Thoughtful

Note: There should be just a little space between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth. The space between the near tip of your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth should be very slight, with just enough space to allow air to come through. Your tongue touches the bottom of your top teeth very lightly in order to allow air to pass through.

Voiced TH
1. To make the voiced TH sound, place your tongue below your top teeth.
2. Your tongue, almost at the tip, should lightly touch the bottom of your top teeth. For the voiced TH sound, your tongue curls up just a little and touches the bottom of your top teeth just a little bit more than it does for the unvoiced TH sound.
3. You should still be able to allow air to pass between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth.
4. While your tongue is touching the bottom of your top teeth, push out air between your tongue and your teeth. As you push out air to make the sound, you should feel a vibration between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth.

Here’s the voiced TH sound: TH - ð. Here’s a word with voiced TH: They

Note: There should be just a little space between your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth. The space between the near tip of your tongue and the bottom of your top teeth should be very slight, with just enough space to allow air to come through. Your tongue touches the bottom of your top teeth very lightly in order to allow air to pass through.

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Notes for the TH sound


The voiced TH sound occurs in function words, also known as grammar words or structure words. Here are some examples:

they - them - their - that - though
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TH Sound Errors – Here are some errors that occur sometimes for TH sounds.

1) Instead of making an unvoiced TH sound, some people might make a T or an S sound. For example, “thought” could sound like “taught” or “sought”.
2) Instead of making a voiced TH sound, some people might make a D or a Z sound. For example, “they” could sound like “dey” or “zey”.

- When making a TH sound, the tongue is between the top and bottom teeth and touching the bottom of the top teeth. Note that TH is called an interdental sound because of this.

- The tongue is not between the teeth for the S sound and the Z sound. For the S sound and the Z sound, the tip of the tongue curls down with the middle part touching the roof of the mouth. The tongue stays in for the S sound and the Z sound, but it moves out a little for the TH sound.

- The tongue is not between the teeth for the T sound and the D sound. For the T sound and the D sound, the tip of the tongue goes just behind the back of the top teeth. The tongue stays in for the T sound and the D sound, but it moves out a little for the TH sound.
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Practice

Practice making TH sounds in isolation. When you place your tongue below the top teeth, make sure it can be seen. Look in a mirror to observe where your tongue goes in order to make a TH sound. When we speak at normal speed, it’s difficult to see that the tongue is just under the top teeth and that we are pushing air. Looking in a mirror helps you become aware of what you have to do in order to correctly pronounce TH.

Use words with TH in sentences. Write the sentences or type them. Find an article and underline words that have a TH sound. Here are some practice points:

1. Read slowly so that there is no falling back into the habit of making a T or an S sound instead of a unvoiced TH sound.
2. Read slowly so that there is no falling back into the habit of making a D or a Z sound instead of a voiced TH sound.
3. Awareness is key. After learning to make the unvoiced TH sound and the voiced TH sound, thought and focus are required to remember to make the sounds when they occur. Practice slowly to remember to make the TH sound when it occurs.
4. Master the practice of producing the sounds first. If you don’t go slow and master the practice first, it will not be possible, or it will be difficult, to naturally make these sounds when you are speaking. You have to practice.

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This IPA symbol represents unvoiced TH: Ɵ. This IPA symbol represents voiced TH: ð.

IPA means International Phonetic Alphabet.