The sound /θ/ voiceless, dental, fricative consonant

  • Touch the back of your upper teeth with the tip of your tongue.
  • Breathe out, while moving your tongue sharply downward, and let air flow past your tongue and out of your mouth.
  • Your vocal cords should not vibrate.


  • "th" - thin, cloth

Note: the sound /ð/ (as in “the”, “that") is also spelled "th."


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The sound /θ/ can be in these consonant clusters:
  • Beginning of a Syllable
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/θr/ (“thr”) - throw 
/θw/ (“thw”) - thwart


  • End of a Syllable
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/sθs/ (“ths”) - breaths
/lθ/ (“lth”) - filth
/lθs/ (“lths”) - health's
/rθ/ (“rth”) - earth
/rθs/ (“rths”) - fourths
/rmθ/ (“rmth”) - warmth
/nθ/ (“nth”)  - tenth
/nθs/ (“nths”)  - ninths
/ŋθ/ (“ngth”) - strength
/ŋθs/ (“ngths”) - lengths
/tθ/ (“th”) - eighth
/tθs/ (“ths”) - eighths
/dθ/ (“dth”) - hundredth
/dθs/ (“dths”) - widths
/ndθ/ (“dth”) - thousandth
/ndθs/ (“dths”) - thousandths
/fθ/ ("fth") - fifth
/fθs/ ("fths") - fifths
/lfθ/ ("fth") - twelfth
/lfθs/ ("fths") - twelfths
/ksθ/ ("xth") - sixth
/ksθs/ ("xths") - sixths
Grammar Tip:
The sound /θ/ is used in the suffix “-th”. This suffix may turn certain adjectives into nouns.
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  • wide --> width
  • strong --> strength
  • long --> length

More importantly, the suffix “-th” also turns most cardinal numbers (four, five, six) into ordinal numbers (fourth, fifth, sixth). (Note: this may put /θ/ in a difficult consonant cluster.)
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  • five --> fifth
  • six --> sixth
  • seven --> seventh
  • eight --> eighth
Compare /θ/ with /ð/:
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These are both dental fricative consonants. However, /θ/ is a voiceless consonant and /ð/ is a voiced consonant. At the end of a word, the vowel before /θ/ will be shorter than the vowel before /ð/.

Now, compare /θ/ with /s/:
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These are both voiceless fricative consonants. However, /θ/ is a dental consonant and /s/ is an alveolar consonant. To pronounce /s/, your tongue should rub against the hard ridge behind your upper teeth.

You can hear the difference between /θ/ and /s/ in these words.
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1. A. thick, B. sick
2. A. theme, B. seem
3. A. thinks, B. sinks
4. A. path, B. pass
5. A. faith, B. face
6. A. plaything, B. placing
Listen and repeat these words:
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1. think
2. thin
3. thanks
4. three
5. thorough
6. thirsty
7. thicken
8. theater
9. throw
10. both
11. cloth
12. truth
13. worth
14. fifth
15. healthy
16. pathetic
17. birthday
18. toothpaste
19. pathway
20. anthropology


Now, practice /θ/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentences.
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1. thanks – thoughtful – birthday
Thanks for the thoughtful birthday gift.
2. think – threw – toothbrush
I think you threw away your toothbrush.
3. path – through – north
A bike path runs through the north side of downtown.
4. third – marathon – Thursday
He’s running his third marathon on Thursday.
5. nothing – worth - truth
Nothing is worth more than the truth.
6. thermos – with – thirsty
You should take a thermos with you in case you get thirsty.

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