S, Z, SH and ZH Sounds Diagram and Explanation

S and Z plus SH and ZH Sounds

The S Sound: Create this sound by placing your tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth. The tongue should be relaxed. The S sound is created as your breath passes over the tongue. There are two common problems that can occur with S: 1) If you press the tongue, you will block the sound, and your S will sound muddled; 2) If your tongue is a little uneven, a bit lazy on one side (this can be caused by your teeth also), you might have a slight whistling sound. Overall, to create a good S, make sure your tongue is lightly placed and find a way to keep it even. You can improve your S sound by simply saying SSSSSSS repeatedly when you have time.

The Z Sound: For this sound, your tongue is in the same position as S, but you press a little bit toward the front and create a light vibration between the front of your tongue and the ridge behind your front teeth (not the tip of the tongue, but the front U-shaped part behind the tip). Some languages use TS instead of Z, and the Z can take a little work to perfect. You have to find the right balance in pressing the tongue to create vibration and yet avoid blocking the sound.

The SH Sound: Your face is in the fish position for this sound–your lips are forward and the sides of the lips are lightly pressing inward, similar to the effect of someone grabbing your cheeks and pulling forward. The sound is made as air moves through this tunnel. If your SH sound is not quite right, you probably need to move your lips more. If you do not move your lips enough, SH can sound like S or Z. 

ZH Sound: This sound is not very common in American English but is found in a few words like measure and division. Use the same position as SH, but also press the front of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth to create a soft vibration.

Spellings for the S Sound

* When S is at the beginning of a word as in sign
* Next to a consonant as in spstsl or sn 
* When C is between vowels, it usually sounds like S, as in receive 
* The spelling CC sounds like KS as in accept
* SS almost always sounds like S (see SH spelling below)

When S Sounds like Z

* In some common words: is, was, does, has and his 
* In many small words with a vowel and SE at the end, as in these, those, rose and phase
* Sometimes when S is between vowels as in resign and possess (po-zes)

Tip: The Z sound is soft, so if you are not sure, try saying the word two says, one time with S and one time with Z, and think about what you really hear Americans saying. For instance, this has an S sound. Compare this and is. Try saying each word both ways.

Spellings for the SH Sound

* SH always has an SH sound
* Sometimes CI sounds like SH as in appreciate
* Sometimes SSU sounds like SH as in pressure

Spellings for the ZH Sound

* The most common spelling is the –sure ending as in measure and pleasure
* Sometimes SI sounds like ZH as in occasion

Note: the ZH sound is not very common. You may only need to practice a few words and be aware of it.

750 Business WordsS and Z Main Page
* http://www.speakmethod.com is a part of I.E. Tutoring, Seattle, WA, which holds the copyright to all materials. Subscribers may print images and pages for individual use, but not for commercial use or distribution. *

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