Pronouncing Breathe & Breath

English Pronunciation isn’t for the light-hearted. If only there were rules to follow and no exceptions to the rules in English pronunciation! Well, you can breathe easier with this lesson. Because once you study these two words, you will notice that there is a rule. Well, at least you can call it a “pronunciation prediction”!  Listen to this podcast, and look at the practice phrases and sentences. Take a deep breath…You’ve got this!

Pronouncing American English Sounds Begins with Learning about the TH Sound

Quick Lesson about Voiced and Voiceless Sounds in English Pronunciation

We actually have two types of TH sounds. Our mouth and tongue are in the same position for these two sounds. The only difference is that one sound uses our voice (that’s called your voice box or vocal cords and it’s the bony protrusion that you feel when you place your hand on the front of your neck/throat).   Put your hand on your throat, now say “ah”, feel the vibration in your throat?  You are using your voice. The other TH sound does not use your voice. When you say the TH sound, just blow air. You should not feel any vibration in your throat.

We are first talking about the Not Voiced (or Voiceless) TH Sound. Stick out your tongue (a little bit), your tongue should feel relaxed and slightly touching the bottom of your top front teeth. Now blow out air, all around your tongue. This may take some practice. And listen to my recording so that you can imitate my sounds.

Pronouncing the Voiceless TH Sound-BREATH

The word BREATH is a noun. It refers to the air that is inhaled and exhaled. The full cycle of breathing.

When a word ends with the letters TH- the sound is usually voiceless. Here are some examples: tooth, teeth, health, bath, booth.

Practice Phrases/Sentences  1. Take a deep breath.   2. Hold your breath.   3. When it’s cold outside, I can see my breath.

Pronouncing the Voiced TH Sound-BREATHE

The word BREATHE is a verb. We use this word when we are talking about the action of inhaling and exhaling.

When a word ends with the letters TH + E (silent)- the TH sound will be voiced. Here are some examples: breathe, loathe, bathe, teethe, clothe  There are not many of these words!

A word about final sounds that are voiced. In English pronunciation, we say the vowel sound longer in words that end in a voiced sound. Say the word “br-eeeeee-th” (breathe),   “looooooooo-th” (loathe),   “b ei-ei-ei-ei-ei th” (bathe).  Trust me on this one. This is what native listeners are listening for when we talk.

Practice Sentences 1. To live, we need to breathe. 2. I want you to breathe in and breathe out.  3. You can breathe easy now! This is a saying that means that you can relax. There are a few idioms or sayings that use the word “breathe”  Here are a few examples,  I need room to breathe.  (This means you need freedom or more space to do something.)  My manager is always breathing down my neck. (This means the manager is watching you too closely or you are under scrutiny.) I once had a manager like this. Yes, it was awful. Have you?

Are you having fun yet?

Pronouncing American English is so interesting, isn’t it? I hope you had fun learning about these two words. I had a good time recording this lesson for you! I encourage you to use these two words during the week. Memorize a sentence and tell your friends. Make this fun too!  If you say something funny or unusual, you are more apt to remember it. Tell someone that you are happy that you are breathing. (voiced TH)   Or tell them that their breath stinks (not voiced TH). Just don’t say that one at work. That would be bad!

Questions? Comments? Please contact me. I’d love to hear from you. My job is to help you get to the next level of American English Pronunciation. Contact me privately HERE  or leave a comment below.