The /s/ and /z/ sounds that will change your world in Eng­lish

Cor­rect­ing the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of your /s/ and /z/ sounds in Eng­lish

The oth­er day I was work­ing with a stu­dent and we both noticed she was hav­ing trou­ble pro­nounc­ing the /s/ and /z/ sounds at the end of words. She was strug­gling to get her mouth to phys­i­cal­ly add the sounds at the end.

She under­stood well that you need to add the plur­al sound to the end of a noun if you are talk­ing about more than one thing, or to the end of  a present sim­ple verb. The trou­ble was she kept leav­ing it off because it was not how her mouth was used to mov­ing.

There were three main rea­sons for her dif­fi­cul­ty:

 her orig­i­nal lan­guage didn’t make plu­rals or sim­ple present tense by adding a sound at the end

 she was con­fused about when to use /s/ or /z/ to make the plur­al sound at the end of words

– in her orig­i­nal lan­guage she wasn’t used to say­ing 2 con­so­nants togeth­er quick­ly, or the par­tic­u­lar types of con­so­nants togeth­er that are need­ed

How to change your /s/ and /z/ sounds world

The first rea­son means you need to be con­scious­ly aware of remem­ber­ing to add the extra /s/ or /z/ at the end of words for the plur­al and for the sim­ple present verb tense.

You actu­al­ly have to prac­tice remem­ber­ing to use it when you speak! 

Why should I do this you may ask? Well, it’s anoth­er piece of the ‘puz­zle’ you are putting into your speech habit to reduce your accent in Eng­lish and to have peo­ple under­stand you the first time you say some­thing.

The sec­ond rea­son means that you need to know when to use the /s/ or the /z/ at the end  for plu­rals (and oth­er parts of speech such as ‘likes, walks” etc)

Here is the rule to help you:

When the let­ter ‘s’ is after an unvoiced or qui­et con­so­nant, it is
pro­nounced as a /s/. e.g., hats, tops, works, laughs, what’s, moths.

When the let­ter ‘s’ is after a vow­el, anoth­er ‘s’, or a voiced con­so­nant,
it is pro­nounced as a /z/ sound.
e.g., logs, tubes, beds, moves, clothes, was, becomes, he’s, pass­es.

Pro­nounce the ‘es’ as /əz/after the con­so­nants /s /z/ ‘ch’ ‘sh’ ‘j’ ‘zh’ ( as in
vision)- (in ‘es’ /əz/, the schwa sound /ə/ is said like a very short ‘u’ sound)
e.g., pass­es, beach­es, wash­es, pack­ages, noses.

The oth­er thing to remem­ber is to pay atten­tion when lis­ten­ing to native Eng­lish speak­ers and the audio train­er in my pro­gram, and remem­ber how they use it.

The third rea­son means you have to prac­tice say­ing the 2 con­so­nants togeth­er so you don’t leave the /s/ and /z/ out because your mouth isn’t used to mov­ing this way.

This takes time and prac­tice.

At first you may feel that you are real­ly strug­gling and it takes a lot of effort, but after a week or 2 of prac­tice you should notice it feel­ing eas­i­er in your mouth.

If I take some  exam­ples from the words above:

Unvoiced con­so­nants with /s/ after it-

hats – you need to prac­tice the /t/ and /s/ con­so­nants togeth­er – make a list of words with this com­bi­na­tion and prac­tice till it feels smoother and eas­i­er.

e.g, cats, lots, bats, rates, experts, apart­ments, etc

You can do the same with the oth­er ones – ps (tops or the verb, stops), ks (backs), fs ( this one is usu­al­ly only for the verb – laughs coughs etc), ths (baths)

Voiced con­so­nants with ‘s’ said as /z/ after it-

This com­bi­na­tion is some­times a bit hard­er for peo­ple to pro­nounce, so keep prac­tic­ing and it will get eas­i­er.

beds- you need to prac­tice the /d/ and /z/ con­so­nants togeth­er

e.g. words, cards, fades, foods

You can do the same with the oth­er ones – bs (cubs, tubes), gs ( bags), ls (walls, feels), ms (comes, homes, hams), ns (ones, pains, fans), rs (cars, fares, hers), vs (leaves, loves, knives), ws (cows, knows), ys (keys, toys, pays).

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Best wish­es,

Esther

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