The sound /h/ voiceless, glottal, fricative consonant




  • /h/ - help, ahead
  • /wh/ - who, whole

Note: The letter "h" is the most common spelling of /h/. However, the letter "h" can also be silent (as in "hour") or can combine with another letter to indicate another sound. (For example, "sh" = /ʃ/, "th" = /θ/ or /ð/)


Grammar Tip: 

The sound /h/ is in several English pronouns:
  • he, him, her
  • his, hers
  • himself, herself.

In informal American English speech, it is common to drop the /h/ from these pronouns. Listen to the difference:
1. Formal: I met her. 
2. Formal. Where did he go? 
3. Formal: He forgot his bag.
Informal: I met 'er.
Informal: Where did 'e go?
Informal: 'E forgot 'is bag.

Compare /h/ with /k/:

These are both voiceless consonants pronounced in the back of the mouth. However, /h/ is a glottal fricative and /k/ is a velar stop . The sound /k/ is pronounced with the back of your tongue, while /h/ is pronounced with the glottis, which is behind your tongue.

You can hear the difference between /h/ and /k/ in these words.
1. A. height, B. kite
2. A. hill, B. kill
3. A. hand, B. canned
4. A. how, B. cow
5. A. heap, B. keep
6. A. hole, B. coal 

Now, compare /h/ and /w/:

These are both consonants without friction - no part of your tongue should touch a part of your mouth. However, /h/ is a voiceless glottal fricative and /w/ is a voiced labio-velar approximant. When you pronounce /h/, your lips should be in a neutral, unrounded position, but when you start to pronounce /w/, your lips should be round.

You can hear the difference between /h/ and /w/ in these words.
1. A. high, B. why
2. A. hot, B. watt
3. A. who, B. woo
4. A. hitch, B. which
5. A. hair, B. wear
6. A. hurry, B. worry
Listen and repeat these words:
1. height
2. hall
3. home
4. help
5. heater
6. hurry
7. history
8. whole
9. who
10. humor
11. hurry
12. perhaps
13. behavior
14. ahead
15. behind
16. reheat
17. abhor
18. unhelpful
19. uphill
20. homogenous
Now, practice /h/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentences.
1. hear - him - help
Did you hear him ask for help?
2. have - hurry - home
We have to hurry home.
3. house - behind - hill
My house is just behind that hill.
4. he - hurt - himself - hockey
He hurt himself by playing hockey.
5. hope - happy - how
I hope you're happy with how your English is improving.
6. perhaps - husband - her
Perhaps her husband is with her.

To practice with different varieties of English, choose another native English speaker by clicking one of the links below:

Consonants /d/ and /g/

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