Clear accent lesson: how to pronounce the number three (3)
In today’s lesson, we are going to learn the correct pronunciation of the number three (3) and many of its associated forms.
We start with a variety of ordinal numbers (forms of a number that that tell us an amount) ranging between 3 and 3 billion. Later on, we will also cover cardinal numbers (forms of a number that tell us the position) such as third (3rd) and thirteenth (13th).
We will also look at different uses of the number three when telling the time along with related words that will help you expand your general vocabulary.
Finally, I have some really useful repeat-after-me sentences that contain the vocabulary in this lesson which you can use to practice.
How to make the “th” sound: /θ/
The number three is the most difficult to pronounce and I find that most of my students struggle with the “th” sound. Some of my students pronounce the number “thirty-three” (33) as “dirty tree” which can often be amusing.
Place your tongue lightly on the back of your front teeth. You need to leave a slight gap with your lower teeth; then, as your tongue rests lightly in that gap touching the teeth, you release and blow.
The difficult thing about this sound is it takes time to develop muscle holding your tongue in that place. So, it can feel a bit strange at first. This sound is difficult because it doesn’t exist in that many of the world’s languages
Cardinal numbers – how to pronounce numbers three, thirty-three and more…
It’s important to study the following numbers with the number three. You will notice from the IPA in the table below that some of these numbers have a different first syllable. Numbers such as thirty begin with a /θɜː/ “thur” sound, like in the first syllable of “Thursday”.
It is also good to know that the larger numbers; million and billion, are pronounced with just two syllables by native English speakers. The second syllable has a /jən/ sound. In interpreted spelling, this sounds like ‘yen’ to an English native speaker.
Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following cardinal numbers.
three hundred thousand
/ˈθriː ˈhʌn.drəd ˈθaʊ.zənd/
Ordinal numbers – How to pronounce third, thirtieth and more
If you’re in a race, a running race, and you come third, that tells us your position. There were two people before you.
Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following ordinal numbers.
Similar to 'word' or 'bird'
*like turn, burn, surf
Telling the time
When telling the time, it is important to know that you do not need to pronounce the “PM”. But if you do, then you simply say the letters P and M.
Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following ordinal numbers.
/ˈθriː ˈθɜː.ti piːˈem/
Here are some more words that are associated with the number three. These are handy to know and give you more words to use in your vocabulary.
triple (adj) /ˈtrɪp.əl/ E.g. Please may I have a triple serving of chips.
treble (adv) /ˈtreb.əl/ This means 3 times the amount. E.g. We played 3 games of bowling, which is treble the cost of just one game.
trinity (n) /ˈtrɪn.ə.ti/ E.g. The Holy Trinity from Christianity.
trio (n) /ˈtri.əʊ/ E.g. A trio of musicians
threesome (n) /ˈθriːsəm/ E.g. A group of three people is a threesome. *Be careful using this word as it can have a sexual connotation.
Repeat after me exercises
Practice these sentences to get better at pronouncing the words from this lesson. Please refer to the video to repeat after me.
The event is on the 3rd of April.
I’m not available on Friday the 13th.
I’ll see you at 3.30pm.
We break for lunch at 13.00 hours
The car is worth £3000.
I only ate 1/3 of the pizza.
I’m in my thirties.
I’ll have three free coffees please.
More from Jade Joddle
Thank you for joining me for this lesson. You should now know how to correctly pronounce the number three in many different forms and have more words in your vocabulary. Don’t forget to like the video, comment and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.
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Developing your voice is practical and physical work in which change is achieved as a result of regular practice. It’s not possible to improve your voice merely by reading about how the voice works – you actually need to do the work and experiment for yourself.
One of the best ways to get to know your voice better is to start recording yourself, either on camera or just your voice recorded on to your phone. The point of recording yourself is so that you can listen again and again to the way you sound. Over time you become really familiar with your voice, which allows you to observe the aspects of your speech that you would like to improve.
Whenever you listen or watch one of your recorded speech performances, you should aim to give yourself constructive feedback. It’s a waste of energy to be self-critical about what you hear or see. It’s a much better use of your energy to focus on the improvements that you can see that you’re making. This is what helps you to stay motivated and enthusiastic about doing voice work.
People with communication blocks who have always struggled with issues related to speech and communication (such as shyness) will benefit greatly from recording themselves. This is because when you see or hear yourself in a recorded speech performance you may have an important realisation about the way you express yourself. You might find that you are not as expressive as you had previously thought. You may realise that you’re not the animated person that you considered yourself to be; you see instead that your expression is contained and dull. Having this important realisation helps you to push against your barriers of self-expression to become more open and connected in the way that you speak and relate to others.
Recording yourself is also good for the development of your speaking voice as it allows you to experiment with your voice in a way that may not be possible in your everyday life. It’s a good idea to keep your voice work fun and interesting because it will help you maintain interest in what you are doing. One of the ways to do this is to experiment with your voice by being more theatrical as you record yourself. This means that you don’t speak in your normal voice: you speak in your best ‘actor’ voice as you do your recordings.
When you are pleased with a speech performance that you have recorded, you can then go a step further by sharing your performance with others. This can be done by publishing your recording as a podcast or even as a video on your own YouTube channel. You can also do it by signing up to be a volunteer reader at Librivox. Sharing your voice work with others in these ways really helps to bring a sense of purpose to what you are doing as it is a way for you to share your self-expression with others.
Focus on Accent, Articulation and Performance to Speak Properly
We do not need to completely change our accents in order to speak properly. It is possible to speak in a more refined and sophisticated way by making small adjustments to the content, articulation and performance of speech.
Speech Content – your speech should be timelessly elegant like a little black dress. This means that you avoid trendy words, slang and local expressions because this kind of language does not travel well and dates very quickly.
Articulation – you should take care to enunciate clearly. To do this it is important that you move your mouth sufficiently without mumbling your words.
Accent – you don’t need to change your whole accent in order to give the impression of speaking properly. However, you can target key sounds in your accent that are perceived to be ‘strong’. To do this you first research the features of your accent – find out what sounds you say differently. You may find that there are just a couple of sounds that you don’t like in your pronunciation, which you want to change. Once you have identified the sounds that you don’t like in your pronunciation you can focus your attention on changing the way you say these sounds specifically. This will soften your accent, rather than change it completely.
Speech Performance – you should ‘own your voice’. When you own your voice it means that you speak in a way that is appropriate for the situation; you are neither too quiet nor too loud. You also speak at a comfortable pace so that other people can understand you. The ability to do this reflects that you have confidence in yourself and that you deserve to be listened to.
In my work as a speaking skills coach, there are three principles I apply when working with people who want to change their accents. Apply these three principles and you will succeed in reducing or changing your accent.
Awareness – Having awareness of your speech means that you are able to observe the way you speak. You can train yourself to become aware of your speech so that you notice aspects of speech that you want to change. Awareness also means that you are able to observe the way other people speak. Importantly, awareness doesn’t mean being critical of what you observe. You observe like a scientist, not a judge.
Modelling – Find someone whose accent or style of speech you like, for example a famous person. You then start listening very closely to the way they speak. Apply your awareness training here so that you can really notice what you like about the way this person speaks. You can then incorporate what you like about their speaking style into your own speech.
Change Sounds – When working to change your accent, you don’t always need to change every single sound. There may be just one or two sounds you need to change to soften your accent. When you know about the phonemes and sounds of English you can then research the sounds you want to change. Having knowledge of phonemes will save you time as you work to change your accent. It also means that when observing the speech of yourself and others you can precisely identify what you are listening to at the level of individual sounds. When you know what your problem sounds are, you can then research these sounds and how to say them correctly in your chosen accent.