Hi there! Try saying these words out loud:

‘this, thumb, sheep, ship, food, good, change, judge, and brother!’

How did you say them? Did you say the words that are written the same, in the same way?  It might surprise you to learn that, although many of these words have some similar spelling, the pronunciation can be quite different!

In today’s Ingla Blog, we’re going to look at some easily confused sounds like this, and explain to you how to pronounce each one differently using the words above!

Oh, and if you’re confused by some of the strange symbols in this article, these are examples of phonemic script : each of them represents a unique sound!

funny face

/ð/ and /θ/


Let’s start with the words ‘this, thumb’ and ‘brother’.

This’ and ‘brother’ use the /ð/ phoneme : this is a slightly softer sound that you  make by gently resting your teeth on top of your tongue, and pushing air through.

But, to say the ‘th’ in ‘thumb’, you have to use the /θ/ phoneme : this is a harder sound that you make by placing your tongue BETWEEN your teeth, and pushing the air out a little harder!

Try practising this by saying ‘This is my brother – his thumb is the same as mine!’


/ɪ/ and /iː/

Next, try saying ‘sheep’ and ‘ship’. 

These words are written differently – but, when it comes to pronunciation, the only difference between them is two easily confused phonemes!

‘Ship’ uses the /ɪ/ phoneme – you make this sound by opening your mouth wide at the sides, like you’re smiling, and pushing air through with your tongue resting on the floor of your mouth!

‘Sheep’, however, uses the /iː/ phoneme – to make this sound, use the same mouth shape as before, but this time raise your tongue. It should make an ‘ee’ sound!

To practise, try saying ‘the sheep is sailing on the ship’!


/tʃ/ and /dʒ/

Next, try saying the words ‘change’ and ‘judge’.

Both of these words end with the ‘/dʒ/ phoneme : you make this sound by moving your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and making a ‘j’ sound!

However, ‘change’ begins with the /tʃ/ sound : to make this sound, do the same thing as before, but close your mouth a little tighter before making the sound!

To practise this, try saying ‘The judge changed his decision’.


/Ʊ/ and /uː/

Try saying ‘good’ and ‘food’.

Although these words are written very similarly, they have a different sound in the middle!

‘Good’ uses the /Ʊ/ phoneme : which you make by closing your mouth quite tightly and making an ‘ooh’ sound.

But for the /uː/ phoneme, like in ‘food’, close your mouth even tighter : like you’re making it into a tiny ‘o’.

To practise this, try saying ‘this food isn’t very good!’

This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.