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Saturday July 17th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 44-
Pronouncing the letter <s> as /z/
: This podcast improves your pronunciation by teaching you the rules for when to pronounce the letter <s> as /z/ .


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn when to pronounce the letter <s> as /z/.

Listen carefully to the word "season".
Notice how <s> is pronounced in two different ways. The first <s> is /s/; the second <s> is pronounced /z/. Why is that and how can we recogonize when <s> is pronounced /z/?

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning the three main cases in which <s> is pronounced /z/
  • Practicing these pronunciations of <s> in some key words

When is <s> pronounced /z/?

So let's begin by learning the first case in which <s> is pronounced /z/.

Case#1 <s> between two vowels : <s> is usually pronounced /z/ when it occurs between two vowel sounds:

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words in which <s> is pronounced /z/. Notice that <s> is between two vowel sounds.
music ... reason ... season ... cousin ... disease ... easy ....

Case #2: <se> after a vowel

If the spelling Pattern <se> comes after a vowel,  it is usually pronounced /z/.

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following words in which <se> comes after a vowel and is therefore pronounced /z/:

use ... these ... lose ... cause .. .choose ... phase ... tease ...

Please note there are some exceptions to this : promise ...house .. mouse ... lease

Notice that in those words <se> came after a vowel but <se> is pronounced /s/.

Case#3: Final <s> as the plural form or third person singular form:

As you know if we add<s> to a noun it beomes plural : one car , two cars.
In additon, if we add <s> to a verb, it is in the third person singular. For example: he loves ...she loves... it loves .

This final <s> in "loves" is prononced /z/.
However final <s> is not always pronounced /z/ in all cases. Final plural <s> is also sometimes pronounced /s/ as in "cups" or "dates".

The same may be true for final <s> in the third person singular as in "he takes" ... "she waits."
It is also sometimes pronounced with an extra syllable as in "she chooses".

The purpose of today's lesson is not to explain how to determine the pronunciation of final <s> in the plural and third person forms. This requires a separate lesson and will be taught in a future podcast.

Some Important Exceptions:

In addition to the cases we've discussed in today's lesson there are some important words in English in which <s> is pronounced /z/.
Although the following words do not follow the rules we've just discussed , it is important to memorize these words and to remember that the letter <s> is pronounced /z/ as they are very common grammatical structure words.
Please listen and repeat:

is ... was... has ... as...

Learning to speak English with a standard American accent is gradual process, but if you work at it regularly and practice as often as you can, you're going to improve!

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Thank you and see you next time!


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