English Online
with Speak Method

Sign in here Sign Out

Online Classes Pronunciation Facts R, Th, T and other sounds 500 Words Practice
Local Classes Business Communication TOEFL Prep ESL Stories
Contact Us Vowel Sounds
Grammar and Idioms Learn by Language

English Pronunciation: S and Z Sounds 

Read about English pronunciation of S and Z sounds. Then Practice Reading the Story. Continue with More S and Z Practice.

The S Sound
:  Make the S by lightly placing your tongue at the top of your mouth on the ridge behind your front teeth. The air should pass over the top of the tongue in an even way.  Sometimes people develop a whistle or slight lisp on S because the tongue is not even. If you struggle with making the S sound, get more practice with S sound pronunciation.

The Z Sound: Z is just like S, except it vibrates. Tense your tongue and as the air comes out, you should feel the vibration on your tongue and the roof of your mouth.  If you do not feel that energy (which eventually will make the tongue warm), the vibration is not there.  Basically, you are holding your tongue in the S position, but with more tension. This creates the vibration.

Watch Video

When S Sounds Like Z

There is a very confusing aspect of the S sound in American English. S has more of a light Z sound in some common words when the S follows a vowel.  This rule is not constant.  As a good example: is has the Z sound, but this does not.  The phonetic rule is this: if S follows a vowel or a voiced consonant, it sounds like Z.  However, because there are exceptions and this rule is already a subtle one, I recommend that you simply be aware of it and listen for it.  Also, begin to use it in some of the common words listed below:


is                      rise                   pose                 eyes                 confuse            easy                 says*

was                  raise                 rose                  ties                  these               reason               days

his                    lose                  mows               flies                  those                movies              shoes

has                   use                   flows               good-byes        because            visit                   busy

 * sounds like sez

If you use the Z in a few common words, your awareness will build naturally and your ear will pick up on the sound when other people in your everyday life use it in other words.  This sound is soft.  As it comes at the end of the word, it is quite brief.  The only real difference between this and a regular S is that you're vibrating the sound a little bit.   

Notice that the words above follow sound patterns.  You can do the same as you listen for this sound.  If you hear it in one word, other similar words are likely to have it too. 

Remember, as with the T rules, most Americans are unaware of this distinction.  When asked what sound is made at the end of "is," people would generally say "s," and then speak it with a "z" in the next thing they say!  Rely on your own ear or advice from an experienced teacher when you need clarification on specific words. 

Continue Learning

S Sound Pronunciation

S and Z Story

More S and Z Practice

X Sounds

R, TH, T and Others

 English Online with Speakmethod.com: English Pronunciation, Seattle, WA

Speak Method: learn pronunciation with English pronunciation word lists, stories and videos. Learn English free online.