3 minute English – When S becomes Z


  1. YouthEnglish

    YouthEnglish New Member

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    Hi guys and welcome to Youth English School’s 3 minute English. Today I thought it would be useful to talk about the two confusing sounds of English, /es/ and /zed/ or /zi:/. Notice that the letter Z is pronounced /zed/ in British English, or /zi:/ in American English. Let’s listen and see if you can tell the difference between these two consonant sounds.

    Ssssssssssss. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    You see, Ssssss creates no voice from the throat, whereas Zzzzz sounds like the noise of a bee. If you touch your throat now, Sssss – there is no vibration, no movement of the vocal cords, therefore no sound is produced. On the contrary, say Zzzzz and put your hand on your throat, you feel some slight shaking movement.

    There are a lot of rules regarding when and where to make S or Z, but my personal view is they are not 100% applicable to every case. So maybe the best way to learn pronunciation is not by studying the rules and principles, but observing the way native speakers speak – Watch them and learn from them.

    Note that pronunciation may be connected to grammar. For example, the word “u-s-e” is pronounced /ju:s/ as a noun or /ju:z/ as a verb. Similarly, we have /hous/ as a noun and /houz/ as a verb ; /klous/ as in “close friends” and /klouz/ as in “close the door”.

    Now let’s take a look at the chart and practice the two sounds.

    1 price ------prize
    2 peace------peas
    3 place ------plays
    4 ice---------eyes
    5 hiss ------his
    6 close ------to close
    7 use ------to use
    8 rice ------rise
    9 pace ------pays
    10 lacey ------lazy
    11 thirsty-----Thursday
    12 bus ------buzz
    13 dust ------does
    14 face ------phase
    15 Sue ------zoo
    16 loose ------lose

    Well, that’s all for this week’s 3 minute English. Bye bye.