English Pronunciation Exercises For The Letter H
This English language lesson is all about pronunciation practice of sentences and words that begin with the letter H. Why is this important you might ask, well British English is extremely picky about the way you pronounce the letter H.
Get it wrong and you will sometimes visibly see people screw up their faces as if listening to it being spoken incorrectly was an insult. So listen to the pronunciation exercises in this audio and save yourself some future embarrassment.
Hi, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. This is a podcast where you actually do some speaking! So listen a number of times, so that you get used to listening and understanding automatically.
So today, let’s talk about something in English which lots of people find difficult to pronounce. And that is the letter h. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H, so it’s the 8th letter of the alphabet. And depending upon your language, this letter may be difficult for you to pronounce, because there isn’t a similar sound in your language. Just a word first of all about the name of this letter – so the sound is ‘hhh’, but the name of the letter is aitch.
That’s spelt A-I-T-C-H. And you’ll hear a lot of English people, who when they say the letter aitch, they put a ‘h’ sound at the front, so that they say ‘Haitch’. This is wrong! This is something I notice and it makes me want to go ‘Ugh!’ So please, no ‘h’ in front of the word aitch.
Pronunciation practice sentences to help you avoid miss pronouncing the letter H
So if you’re someone who finds this sound difficult, let’s see if we can practise it a little, so that you can build some confidence around pronouncing ‘h’. First of all, if you imagine blowing – ‘ph-ph-ph’ sound – as though you’re blowing out a candle, or maybe the candles on your birthday cake.
So think about your lips – lips are the place where you put your lipstick, by the way. So if you make a circle with your lips and then you blow air through - ‘ph-ph-ph’. This is good if you want to make a ‘f’ sound – like in the word ‘fine’ or a ‘ph’ sound, like in the word photograph.
But if you want to make a ‘h’ sound for h, your mouth needs to be open, but the position of your lips depends on what sound you’re going to make next. What’s important is that your mouth is open. But for ‘h’ the sound comes from further back in your mouth – in your throat in fact. So to get this, try one of these ideas.
Don't forget to read the transcript which has all of these pronunciation exercises as a pdf
Firstly, if you put your sunglasses on and you notice that they’re a bit dirty, you can’t see properly. If you’re out, you might open your mouth, then breathe on the sunglasses – ‘hh-hh-hh’ like that – and then maybe you give them a clean with your T shirt. So this is exactly the sound that you need. ‘Hh-hh-hh’.
Secondly, if you imagine a really big dog, that’s very hot – he’s been lying in the sun, or he’s been running around. And dogs can only cool down by what we call ‘panting’ - that’s what we call it, when someone breathes heavily.
Hh-hh-hh – like that. And nothing to do with pants, by the way! So imagine you’re a big dog and you’re trying to cool down - ‘Hh-hh-hh’. This is the sound that we’re looking for. Or if you’re like me and you sometimes you do go for a run – this is the sound I make quite a lot.
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So once you’ve got that sound, then you’re halfway there. You just need to combine it with various vowel sounds that follow it.
So examples of words, where it’s followed by ‘a’
Happy Hand Happen Ham
Or if it’s followed by ‘e’
He Hen Hello Help
Or with ‘i’
Hi Hilary His Him
Some examples of words where it’s followed by an ‘o’
Hot Hotel Holiday How
And finally by a ‘u’
Hut Hunt Hug Hungry
So let’s try some sentences, with lots of ‘h’ words in them. Remember, you’re cleaning your sunglasses or you’re a panting dog. ‘hh-hh-hh’.
Hi, I’m Hilary and I’m horribly hungry, so I’m here to eat some ham.
High over a hill, the helicopter hovered.
If you’re happy on a horse, then you’ll have a heavenly holiday.
Hand me the hair dryer, or I’ll have to hide under my hat.
Have a go at these sentences and see whether your ‘h’ pronunciation improves.
Enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
If you were to ask why British English speakers find the miss pronunciation of the letter H so offensive I could not help you. It just seems hard-wired into the language and a native will spot the incorrect pronunciation a mile away.
The good news is Adept English is here to help you with your English language learning and you can avoid these annoying issues. Listen to the audio as many times as you can to help train your brain to copy the pronunciation used and have fun.
We have lots of other tips on learning to speak English here.
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