Let’s learn how to pronounce the F and V consonants in American English.
How to pronounce the F /f/ and V /v/ consonants
The F and V consonants are very similar.
They share the same lip, tongue, and jaw placements, which means they are made in the same place in the mouth. Watch as I say the two sounds, and you’ll notice that my mouth is in the same position for both sounds.
F, V, F, V
They also share the same type of air release or manner. The air release is noisy, turbulent, and constant.
But where they differ is voicing. The F consonant is a voiceless consonant, which means it is made with just air passing through the vocal cords and out of the mouth. The vocal cords are turned off as you say this sound.
The V consonant is a voiced consonant. This means the vocal cords are turned on as you say this sound, and you should feel a vibration in the throat when you say it.
To pronounce the F and V consonants, the bottom of the upper front teeth touch the back of the lower lip. The upper lip lifts up slightly to expose the front teeth.
Be sure that you don’t bite the lower lip, like this. This is not how these consonants are made. Instead, the lower lip comes up to lightly touch the bottom of the upper front teeth. The bottom lip should be in front, while the upper teeth are behind.
The tongue does not really participate in these sounds, so the tongue can be relaxed or in a neutral position.
Watch an animation of the F and V consonant sounds. This animation was created from actual videos of a real person pronouncing the F and V sounds. The animation shows the side view of the person's face, and I slowed it down to half speed. First you’ll see the F consonant sound. Watch how the lower lip moves up to touch the bottom of the front teeth. The upper lip also lifts to expose the upper teeth.
Now the V consonant. Notice the same mouth placement, but you’ll hear voicing or vocal cord vibration.
When making the V consonant, you should feel vibration in two places: in the throat and at the point where the articulators touch, which is where the upper teeth touch the back of the lower lip. This is the vibration of the air as it is exiting the mouth.
The F consonant does not have vibration because it is a voiceless sound, so the vocal cords are turned off as you say it.
Let’s take a closer look at the F and V consonants.
The F /f/ and V /v/ consonants: Up close and in slow motion
Here is the F sound in isolation. Notice how the lower lip comes up to touch the bottom of the upper front teeth, and the upper lip lifts slightly to expose the upper teeth.
Now the word for. Again, you’ll see the lower lip lifts up to touch the bottom part of the upper teeth, and the upper lip lifts up to expose the upper teeth.
Now the word invest. You can’t see the vibration, but since this word has the voiced V consonant, the vocal cords are vibrating as I say it, and there is a secondary vibration where the inside of the lower lip touches the bottom of the upper teeth.
When practicing the F and V consonants, make sure you use a mirror so you can watch what your lips are doing. Do they do this (bite the lip)? Very, for. Remember, you don’t want to bite the lower lip or curl it inside of the mouth. The lower lip should be in front of the upper teeth, and the point of contact is with the inside of the lower lip and the bottom part of the upper teeth.
F /f/ and V /v/ consonant practice
Let’s practice a few words together. Say the words with me. We’ll start with the F consonant.
For, F, For
Friend, F, friend
If, F, if
Now the V consonant. Feel the vibration of the vocal cords in your throat and where the inside of the lower lip touches the bottom of the upper teeth.
Vote, V, vote
Invent, V, invent
Of, V, of
Thanks so much for practicing the F and V consonants with me. I hope this video was helpful! But we don’t have to end the practice here - let’s keep working together! Check out the additional practice videos of the F and V consonant sounds in English Pro, my comprehensive online accent training community. The details on how to enroll in English Pro are in the description below. Thanks, and have a great day!
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