IPA phoneme /ð/

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that /ðæt/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /ð/ corresponds to the initial consonant sound in words like "the", and "that" and the middle one in "mother" and "gather".

/ð/ is a voiced consonant; its unvoiced counterpart is IPA phoneme /θ/. Both phonemes are consistently spelled "th". See Decoding exercises: "th".

Common words

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

With initial /ð/:

  • Grammar words: than - that - the - their - them - then - there - these - they - this - those - though - thus

/ð/ in mid-position:

  • Grammar words: although - another - either - neither - other - rather - together - whether - within /wɪðˈɪn, wɪθˈɪnAmE/ - without /wɪˈðaʊt, wɪθˈaʊtAmE/
  • Content words: bother - brother - clothing - father - farther - feather - further - gather - leather - mother - Netherlands - northern - rhythm - southern /ˈsʌðərn/ - weather

With final /ð/:

  • Grammar word: with /wɪð/ or /wɪθ/
  • Content words: breathe - smooth

Less common words

  • /ð/ in mid-position : heathen, heather, worthy
  • With final /ð/: bathe, booth /buːð,BrE buːθAmE/, clothe, loathe, soothe, teethe

Irregular plurals

Some words ending in /θ/ have a plural ending in /ðz/

  • baths - mouths - paths - youths

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following section aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.


The main difficulty is the difference between /ð/ and /d/, that is, they may have difficulty distinguishing between "they" and "day". In Spanish both sounds are allophones. This means that to the Spanish ear [aˈðjos], and [aˈdjos] are heard as the same word, even if only [aˈðjos] is the natural pronunciation of "adiós".

Since in Spanish [d] always follows [n], a sentence such as "can they go?" may be uttered as */kən deɪ ˈgəʊ/.


Many Spanish speakers from Spain don't distinguish clearly between /ð/ and /θ/ and when they see "th" tend to pronounce it /θ/, a sound which corresponds to the letter "z" in Spanish. They even replace the [ð] sound of standard Spanish by [θ]. For example, the name of the satirical website La Verdaz is a phonetic rendering of "La Verdad" in a regional accent from Spain.

See also

External links