fricative sounds

Fricative Sounds: Parents 101 Guide

Posted on
September 29, 2023
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A fricative is a consonant sound formed by friction or increased air pressure between two speech organs (such as the teeth, tongue, lips or palate).

fricative sounds

What are fricative examples?

Fricative sounds consist of voiced and unvoiced.

Voice fricative sounds:

  • TH - Them
  • V - Vote
  • ZH sound - vision
  • Z - Zoo


  • the vocal cords vibrate while producing the sound
  • vowel sound before voiced consonant sounds has a longer duration

Unvoiced fricative sounds:

  • TH - Thin
  • F - Face
  • SH - She
  • S - So


  • the vocal cords do not vibrate while producing the sound, sounds is produced only with air
  • the vowel sound before unvoiced consonant has a shorter duration

Voicing is the vibration of the vocal folds in speech production.

Fricative sounds are usually sounds that children do struggle with, as these sounds require precise placement of the speech organs (tongue, mouth etc.) to create the correct amount of friction in the airflow. Fricative sounds such as “Th” are usually later developed in children and shouldn’t be seen as a concern up until age 7.

What is the most common Fricative Sound?

The voiceless alveolar sibilant [s] is widely regarded as the most common fricative sound cross-linguistically, typically present in languages featuring fricatives. This prevalence is mirrored in the English language, where the /s/ sound, exemplified in words such as "sun" and "peace," stands as the most frequent fricative.

What is the difference between plosives and fricative sounds in UK English?

Plosives and fricatives are two kinds of sounds in English. Plosives use a quick release of air after a full closure of the mouth, making sounds like /p/, /t/, and /k/. Fricatives are made by squeezing the mouth's passage to let air hiss through, creating sounds like /f/, /s/, and /v/.

What is an Affricate sound?

Affricate sounds in phonetics are a blend of speech sounds that begin with a blocked airflow (stop) and then transition to a more constricted passage (fricative) causing a hissing sound. These sounds quickly shift from a state of full blockage to a partial blockage, creating a turbulent flow of air. They are grouped with stops and fricatives as obstruents.

The "ch" sound at the beginning and end of "church" is an affricate.

‘ch’ (in ‘cheese’) - is a combination of the ‘t’ sound and the ‘sh’ sound,

‘j’ (in ‘jump’) - is a combination of the ‘d’ sound and the ‘zh’ sound (in ‘treasure’).

Tips on how to teach Fricative Sounds to your child:

  1. Teaching the sound “S”: Use visual cues, like mirrors or objects starting with "s," to demonstrate keeping teeth together while making the "snake sound," and encourage airflow through the front of teeth to create "skinny air" sounds, maintaining patience and a fun atmosphere.
  2. Teaching the sound “F”: Start with blowing bubbles or blowing onto your hand so they feel the sensation of air coming through their mouth and therefore have a better understanding of how airflow and placement of mouth should be
  3. Read with your child. If they struggle with a certain Fricative sound, such as S, make sure to exaggerate that sound for them while you read. Have your child repeat the word with you.
  4. Make a connection between letter sounds and things your child are familiar with that starts with this letter. Print out pictures or use toys to help your child make the connection with the letter sound. For example if you want to start with the letter T, consider printing out pictures of things that start with T that your child loves, such as trucks and tigers. Repeat the word with the letter sound while showing these items to your child
  5. Focus on one sound at a time. You can try to do a letter a week, making sure to make a fun game out of learning this letter sound.
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