Pronunciation exercises: /ʒ/ vs /ʃ/

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/ʒ/ is a voiced consonant. /ʃ/ is an unvoiced consonant.

/ʒ/[edit | edit source]

If a word begins or ends with /ʒ/ then it must be a loanword or a foreign word. Also, most words that have /ʒ/ are enclosed in vowels.


  • equation - usually
  • ending in "sion": conclusion - confusion - decision - division - occasion - provision - television - vision
  • ending in "sual": usual - visual
  • ending in "sure": exposure - measure - pleasure

Words derived from French: beige, genre, lingerie

/ʃ/[edit | edit source]

Since /ʒ/ normally doesn’t appear at the beginning or end of the word, we will concentrate on the /ʃ/ sound in mid position.

At the beginning of the word: Sean /ʃɔn/ - shawl - she - shin - shine - shook - shoot - show

At the end of the word: bush - douche /duʃ/ - kush - lush - mush - push - rush - whoosh /wuʃ/ - wish

In the middle of the word:

  • as "sh": fashion, publisher, relationship
  • as "ss": assure, commission, discussion, expression, issue, mission, pressure, professional
  • as "ti": action, education, essential, function, partial, patience, rational, substantial
  • as "ci": efficient, musician, racial, special
  • as "ce": ocean
  • as "ch": machine
  • /kʃ/ as "x": anxious, complexion

/ʒ/ vs /ʃ/[edit | edit source]

There are very few minimal pairs /ʒ/ vs /ʃ/. One example is "measure" (a normal word) vs "mesher" (one who makes meshes, a word that doesn’t appear in normal dictionaries).

These words don’t rhyme
  • equation - location; exposure - kosher; measure - pressure; vision - mission;
These words don’t end in the same syllables
  • visual - sensual

Decoding /ʒ/ and /ʃ/[edit | edit source]

In Latin derived words /ʒ/ is spelled with a single "s" (measure, vision). /ʃ/ on the other hand, is normally spelled with "sh" and often spelled with "ti", "ci", and "ssi". This means that spelling is a reliable way to tell apart /ʒ/ and /ʃ/.

In French loanwords /ʒ/ is "g", as in "genre", or seldom "j" as in " déjà vu" /deɪʒɑː ˈvuː/.

Spelling anomaly

  • "ti" as /ʒ/: equation

Variant pronunciations[edit | edit source]

Several words are pronounced either with /ʒ/ or with /ʃ/. In most cases the difference is regional, with General American preferring /ʒ/ and Received Pronunciation preferring /ʃ/.

Non regional: Asia, Asian

/ʃ/,BrE /ʒ/ or /ʃ/AmE

  • cashmere, coercion
  • ending in "rsion": aversion, conversion, dispersion, excursion, immersion, perversion, version

/gʒ/ or /kʃ/

  • luxurious, luxury

See Decoding exercises: "sion"

Spanish L1[edit | edit source]

See IPA phoneme /ʒ/ § Spanish.

References[edit | edit source]