For some people, S and SH sound the same.  The position for these two sounds is quite different — learn the difference in tongue and lip position, and practice with minimal pairs.

Video text:

In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to compare the consonants S and SH.

This video is sponsored by italki, where you can find a customized learning experience. More information at the end of the video.

I got a request recently to compare these two consonants. I’m happy to do it.

The S sound can actually be made two different ways: one with the tongue tip pointing up, and one with it pointing down. I make the S with the tongue tip pointing down. Sss. Notice how the corners of my lips are either relaxed, ss, or pull out, ss. This is different from SH, shhh, where the corners come in and the lips flare. Let’s compare some photos to look at the tongue position.

You can see that not only is the lip position different, but the tongue position too. For the S sound, the tongue tip touches the back of the bottom front teeth. The front/middle part lifts a little bit.

For the SH sound, the tongue tip lifts to the middle of the mouth. Though it stays forward, it’s not touching anything. The front/middle part of the tongue arches up so it’s very close to the roof of the mouth.

I’m going to turn off the sound now. Just look at my mouth. Which sound am I making?

The S sound. My lips did not flare.
Let’s look at some minimal pairs. Repeat with me.
See, she.
suit, shoot.
sock, shock.
sign, shine.

Now I’m going to say just one word in a minimal pair. Which is it? Is it the word with S or SH?


Has this video helped? Sh, ss.

I hope it has.

If there’s a concept you need help with, please put it in the comments below.

Also, I’m very excited to tell you that my book is now on sale. If you liked this video, there’s a lot more to learn about American English pronunciation, and my book will help you step by step. You can get it by clicking here, or in the description below.

That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

This video was sponsored by italki, offering Rachel’s English fans a buy-one-get one promotion for a limited time. At italki, you can find teachers around the world that specialize in test prep, business English, or even lessons for your children. Click here, or see the link in the description below, for more information.