IPA phoneme /θ/

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thin /θɪn/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /θ/ corresponds to the initial consonant sound in words like "think", and "thought" and the final one in "bath" and "both".

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

Common words

Initial pronunciation of /θ/:

  • thanks - theaterAmE - theatreBrE - theme - theory - therapy - thick - thin - thing - think - thirteen - thirst - thirty - thorough - thought - thousand - threat - three - threw - throat - through - throw - thumb - Thursday

Final pronunciation of /θ/:

  • bath - beneath - birth - both - breath - death - depth - earth - faith - forth - growth - health - length - mathAmE - month - mouth - north - path - smooth - south - strength - teeth - tooth - truth - wealth - worth - youth

Middle pronunciation of /θ/:

  • anything - everything - nothing - something
  • athlete - author - Dorothy - Ethiopia /ˌiːθiːˈoʊpiːə/ - ethnic - healthy - hypothesis - Martha - mathematics - mathsBrE - method - monthly - strengthen - wealthy


Irregular plurals of words ending in /θ/, as /ðz/

  • baths - mouths - paths - youths

Several plurals of words ending in /θ/ are pronounced as /ðz/ and also as /θs/

  • oaths - truths - wreaths

/θ/ or /ð/

  • booth - with


  • threw - through

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.



Many speakers don't distinguish clearly between /θ/ and /ð/ and when they see "th" tend to pronounce it [θ], a sound which corresponds to the letter "z" in Spanish. This happens also when speaking Spanish: Madrid's inhabitants are notorious for pronouncing [ma'driθ].

Another difficulty is the tendency to pronounce the initial letter "c" as /θ/ in words like "city" and "centre".

Latin America

The /θ/ sound doesn't exist, and speakers tend to replace it by /s/ or /t/. However if another phoneme must be chosen it has been suggested to use /f/,[1] for example pronounce "think" as */fɪŋk/ instead of */sɪŋk/.


  1. Geoff Lindsey, The British English vowel system, comment dated March 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm.

See also

External links