When To Aspirate Consonants In English?

When to aspirate consonants to sound more natural in English?

Hi from Speak More Clearly!

A student recently asked the question, when do you need to aspirate consonants? Do you aspirate the unvoiced consonants in all positions in words?

I’ll answer in a minute.

But first, I need to let you know that it’s important to aspirate unvoiced consonants in English to sound more natural.

Aspirating consonants means to release a puff of air simultaneously as you say the consonant.

For example:

/p/, /t/, /k/

You can hear the air:




Just whisper the sounds and you’ll get it.

We have lots of training on this in our course, and you can also learn which consonants to aspirate. Oh, and by the way this goes for the American, Australian and British accents.

In the mean time, the answer to when you need to aspirate consonants is:

Always aspirate if an unvoiced consonant is at the beginning of a word,

For example:




Sometimes an unvoiced consonant is slightly aspirated in the middle of the word, depending on the accent you are studying, and the particular consonant.

For example:



Aspirating Consonants in British English


For a British accent, if a word ends in a /p/ /t/ or /k/ sound then you aspirate the sounds IF it’s the last word in the sentence and not followed by another word.

For example:

on top

is it hot?

I’m at work.

Or if a word ends in a /p/ /t/ or /k/ and the next word begins with a vowel.

For example:

what is

top off

take a

Aspirating Consonants in American English and Australian English


For American and Australian English, if a word ends in a /p/ or /k/ and the next word begins with a vowel, then they are slightly aspirated.

For example:

wipe it

pack it

Sounds like f, sh, and ch are always aspirated in all positions in words- though slightly less in the middle.

Also, for more tips check out this video lesson on /p/ vs /b/ English Consonants.

If you found this video helpful, please share it with someone who would benefit from it 🙂

I’ve included some more details about when to aspirate consonants and in depth examples in our online course. Choose an accent below to get access to the training videos in our Speak More Clearly courses.

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