Lesson 33: Pronounce and Spell /ʃ/ Sh, Part One
/ʃ/ Sound: Practice your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will practice the /ʃ/ sound. Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen because this lesson’s going to be difficult. That’s because there are a variety of spellings for the /ʃ/ sound in English. Due to this we have many spelling patterns to learn. 

Before we begin practising the /ʃ/ sound, I want to make sure that you’re pronouncing it correctly. This is the sound we make when someone’s having a conversation in the library and we want them to be quiet, ‘Shush!’. You’re getting this sound wrong if it sounds lispy, wet or spitty. What we want to hear instead is a short, sharp burst: sh, sh, sh

To make this sound, your jaw should be slightly open so that you have a gap of about 4mm between your top and bottom teeth. Place your tongue tip lightly but firmly where the two front teeth meet. Your tongue should be tense with the back of the tongue raised up (you may not be able to feel the position the back of the tongue is in). Now, when you force air out, air will pass around the sides of the tongue to create a /ʃ/ sound: sh, sh, sh.

Let’s compare /ʃ/ to sounds it is sometimes confused with:

  • If you hear /s/ in ‘say’ then your tongue is too high and you need to bring it down.
  • If you hear ‘zh’ /ʒ/ as in ‘vision’ your tongue is in the correct place. However, the difference is that /ʒ/ is a voiced sound, which means you can hear vibrations from the vocal tract. In contrast, for /ʃ/ which is unvoiced, you only hear the sound of air being forced out.
  • If you hear ‘ch’ /ʧ/ as in ‘chair’ your tongue is in the correct place but the airflow is different. /ʧ/ is different because it begins with a stop before the air is released. This means there is a short built up of pressure by the tongue just before it is released.

One more time practising /ʃ/:

When pronouncing /ʃ/ you will hear the sound of friction as air is pushed out. /ʃ/ is a fricative consonant.


Practice /ʃ/ Sh: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

cash: stash some of this cash

gash: the knife slashed a gash on his shin

shell: she sells seashells on the seashore

shrimp: the short shelf life of shrimp

polish: don’t forget to polish the Polish dresser

selfish: selfish people are not at all ashamed about it

About Jade Joddle Jade Joddle is a speech and voice teacher who gives her non-native speaker clients back the confidence they had in their native language. She teaches high-level professionals to Speak Well in English so that they thrive and succeed.