The Importance of Voiced and Voiceless Sounds

The Importance of Voiced and Voiceless Sounds

In spoken American English there are many pairs of consonant sounds that are articulated using the same tongue and mouth shape.

Some Consonant Sounds are Voiced

The difference between these pairs of sounds is that one sound is voiced and the other is voiceless.

Voiced sounds cause the vocal chords to vibrate. Voiceless sounds do not cause the vocal chords to vibrate.

When you voice a consonant, it sounds different.

Three Examples

Voiced sounds

Voiced sounds

In spoken English the /s/ & /z/ sounds employ the same tongue position and mouth shape however:

  • the /z/ is voiced and the /s/ is voiceless

The English /k/ & /g/ sounds are both produced in the back of the throat however:

  • the /g/ is voiced and the /k/ is voiceless

The /p/ & /b/ sounds are both made by pushing your lips together and then releasing them however:

  • the /b/ is voiced and the /p/ is voiceless

Non Native Speakers Often Omit Voiced Consonant Sounds

Many non native speakers don’t voice important consonant sounds. Some people omit these sounds when they speak.

Other people use the voiceless sounds /s/, /k/ & /p/ when they should use the voiced sounds /z/, /g/ & /b/.

Making these types of pronunciation mistake will contribute to your accent, compromise your grammar,  and create breakdowns in communication.