ESL Saigon logo

ESL Saigon


Fricatives of English language

In English language each place of articulation has a pair of phonemes (one fortis and one lenis). However, there is one exception, the glottal "h".

In the table below you can see the system of fricatives phonemes of English.

Labio-dental Dental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Glottal
Fortis (voiceless) f θ s ʃ h
Lenis (voiced) v ð z ʒ

Fricatives according to their place of articulation

The fricatives /f/ and /v/

Examples: fan, van, safer, saver, half, halve etc.
These fricatives are labio-dental because the lower lip is in contact with the upper teeth. The fricative noise is not strong especially in the case of /v/.

Fricatives f and v

The fricatives /θ/ and /ð/

Examples: thumb, thus, ether, father, breath, breathe etc.
In the case of dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ the tongue is placed inside the teeth with the blade touching the inside of upper teeth. It is not placed between teeth as many teachers teach their students. The fricative noise is also weak as in case of the fricatives /f/ and /v/.

Dental fricatives θ and ð

The fricatives /s/ and /z/

Examples: sip, zip, facing, phasing, rice, rise etc.
The alveolar fricatives /s/ and /z/ have the same place of articulation as the plosives /t/ and /d/. There is formed a small passage along the center of the tongue which allows the air to escape producing a sound comparatively intense.

Fricatives s and z

The fricatives /ʃ/ and /ʒ/

Examples: ship, Russia, measure, Irish, garage, etc.
The palato-alveolar fricatives /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ take their name (palato-alveolar) from the fact that they are party palatal and partly alveolar. The tongue is in contact with the area slightly further back than in case for /s/ and /z/. You can see this very clear if you try to produce /s/ then /ʃ/.
Notice that /ʃ/ is a commonly used phoneme but /ʒ/ is not. Very few English words begin with /ʒ/ and they are words borrowed from French language. Usually, the phoneme /ʒ/ is found in median position as in the words "measure" or "usual".

Plato alveolar fricatives ʃ and ʒ

The glottal /h/ is presented in a separate article since there are many things to be discussed related to it.


Back to index