The 24 consonant sounds in English with examples

Contents

English Consonant Sound & IPA symbols

Take a deep dive into each IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) Consonant Sounds with examples in common English words. In the table below, you can listen to each English consonant sound pronounced by a native English speaker and practice your pronunciation of each consonant sound.

Lips
(Bilabial)
Lips-Teeth
(Labio-dental)
Tongue-Teeth
(Dental)
Tongue-Gum Ridge 
(Alveolar)
Tongue-Palate
(Palatal)
Tongue-Soft Palate 
(Velar)
Throat
(Glottal)
Stops
 
Value
   
Fricatives
   
Affricates
           
Nasals
       
Liquids
         
Glides
         

The above IPA symbols can look a little overwhelming. But remember, you don’t have to know every IPA symbol. But with effort these phonetics symbols can be seriously helpful for improving your English pronunciation.

Learn the Technical Names of the consonants that you just read.

b
voiced bilabial stop
d
voiced alveolar stop
f
voiceless labiodental fricative
h
voiceless glottal fricative
k
voiceless velar stop
l
voiced alveolar lateral liquid
m
voiced bilabial nasal
n
voiced alveolar nasal
p
voiceless bilabial stop
s
voiceless alveopalatal fricative
t
voiceless alveolar stop
v
voiced labiodental fricative
w
voiced velar glide
z
voiced alveopalatal fricative
g
voiced velar stop
j
voiced palatal glide
ŋ
voiced velar nasal
voiced palatal affricate
voiceless palatal affricate
ʃ
voiceless palatal fricative
ʒ
voiced palatal fricative
θ
voiceless interdental fricative
ð
voiced interdental fricative
ʍ
voiceless velar glide

Read this lesson on English consonant sounds with IPA to revise all the consonants in English. Before we get started, let’s go over two things you need to know about the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). 

Even if you don’t know all the English Consonant IPA symbols, still use the IPA for important information such as:  

– when you see the two dots /:/ it means the sound is long 
– each symbol represents a sound
– when you see this dash /’/ it means the next syllable is stressed

Why is the IPA so helpful for English pronunciation? The International Phonetic Alphabet is a very helpful tool for learners of English because English is not a phonetic language. The spelling of an English word doesn’t tell us how to pronounce it.

In English, several different letter combinations can be used to spell the same sound and there are silent letters. The IPA tells us exactly the correct sounds and word stress for pronouncing English words.

Voiced & unvoiced consonant sounds

Let’s talk about voicing. Voiced and unvoiced pairs.  English consonants can be unvoiced and voiced. More especifically, the English language has 24 consonant sounds. Some consonants have voice from the voicebox and some don’t.

These consonants are voiced and voiceless pairs:

/p/ /b/,

/t/ /d/,

/k/ /g/,

/f/ /v/,

/s/ /z/,

/θ/ /ð/,

/ʃ/ /ʒ/,

/ʈʃ/ /dʒ/.

These consonants are voiced: /h/, /w/, /n/, /m/, /r/, /j/, /ŋ/, /l/.

An unvoiced consonant means that there is is no vibration or voice coming from the voicebox when the sound is pronounced. Examples of unvoiced consonant sounds are /s/, /p/ and /t/. 

A voiced consonant means that there is voice or vibration coming from the voicebox when the sound is pronounced. Examples of voiced consonant sounds are /v/, /b/ and /g/. 

A consonant pair is when the mouth position required to make two sounds is the same, but one sound in unvoiced and one sound is voiced. 

  • /p/ pet /pet/ paper /ˈpeɪ.pə/ top /tɒp/
  • /b/ bet /bet/ trouble /ˈtrʌ.bəl/ rub /rʌb/
  • /t/ Tim /tɪm/ better /ˈbe.tə/ hot /hɒt/
  • /d/ dim /dɪm/ order /ˈɔː.də/ bad /bæd/
  • /k/ came /keɪm/ talking /ˈtɔː.kɪŋ/ back /bæk/
  • /g/ game /geɪm/ bigger /ˈbɪ.gə/ bag /bæg/
  • /f/ fine /faɪn/ offer /ˈɒf.ə/ off /ɒf/
  • /v/ vine /vaɪn/ saving /ˈseɪ.vɪŋ/ of /ɒv/
  • /s/ seal /si:l/ missing /ˈmɪ.sɪŋ/ face /feɪs/
  • /z/ zeal /zi:l/ crazy /ˈkreɪ.zi/ phase /feɪz/
  • /ʃ/ show /ʃoʊ/ pushing /ˈpʊ.ʃɪŋ/ rush /rʌʃ/
  • /ʒ/ measure /ˈme.ʒə/ vision /ˈvɪ.ʒən/ asia /ˈeɪ.ʒə/
  • /ʧ/ choke /ʧoʊk/ watching /wɒ.tʃɪŋ/ catch /kætʃ/
  • /ʤ/ joke /ʤoʊk/ damage /ˈdæ.mɪdʒ/ large /lɑːdʒ/
  • /θ/ thin /θɪn/ method /ˈme.θəd/ both /boʊθ/
  • /ð / then /ðen/ other /ˈʌ.ðə/ with /wɪð/
  • /l/ love /lʌv/ follow /ˈfɒː.loʊ/ well /wel/
  • /m/ mail /meɪl/ humour /ˈhjuː.mə/ some /sʌm/
  • /n/ nail /neɪl/ funny /ˈfʌ.ni/ fine /faɪn/
  • /ŋ/ sing /sɪŋ/ singer /ˈsɪ.ŋə/
  • /h/ heal /hi:l/ perhaps /pəˈhæps/
  • /r/ real /ri:l/ correct /kəˈrekt/
  • /j/ you /ju:/ beyond /biˈjɒnd/
  • /w/ we /wi/ showing /ˈʃoʊ.wɪŋ/

We have put the voiced and unvoiced pairs in the box together. Remember that the mouth position for the pair is exactly the same, the only difference is that one is voiced and one isn’t.

For example, the mouth position required to make the sounds /p/ and /b/ is exactly the same, /p/ has no voice and /b/ is voiced. While, /f/ and /v/ require exactly the same mouth position, /f/ is unvoiced and /v/ is voiced. 

Top tips for revising English consonants sound to improve pronunciation

Don’t worry too much about voicing. It is not really very important for how clear your English is to listeners. You need to focus on your mouth position. Are you pronouncing each consonant clearly? 

Pay careful attention to consonant sounds at the ends of words. Consonant sounds at the ends of words are very important for speaking clearly in English.

For example, when pronouncing /k/ in the word ‘back’, make sure you can clearly hear the /k/ sound at the end. It is strong or stressed but it does need t be there.

Consonant Sounds – Voiced & Unvoiced Pairs With IPA

The consonant sounds and its IPA symbols showed earlier are all voiced but do not have a voiced pair. The consonant IPA symbols /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ are all called nasal sounds, because when we make them the air passes through our nose, not out of the mouth; As you go through these sounds, check your /m/ and /n/ at the ends of words.

Here are some more examples of consonants sounds in the IPA with full IPA transcription for words with each consonant sound. See the full IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols for each consonant sound here

Conclusion and further english learning tips

Please do not be intimidated by this, try to use this English phonetics transcription tool and hear the corresponding sounds. Use the Showing technique to imitate the sound of any word that you wish to speak.

Also, if you want to improve your pronunciation, even more, try our English voice recognition system, it's really FREE. You will be asked to speak some phonetics drills and some cool tongue twisters.