English consonants

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The following table shows the 24 consonant phonemes found in most varieties of English. Stop (plosive) and fricative consonants are always voiceless or voiced. Stops are phonetically aspirated or unaspirated, depending on syllable position. The alveolars are usually apical, with the tongue bent upwrad, unlike their counterparts in East Asian languages, which are typically laminal, or with a flat tongue blade. Sounds in parentheses are not regular phonemes of standard English varieties, but are common allophones or variants in different dialects. For pairs in one cell in the table, the left one is voiceless, while the right is voiced, e.g., [f v] = [-voice, +voice].

  Labial Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p   b t   d k   g (ʔ)
Affricate tʃ   dʒ
Fricative f   v θ   ð s   z ʃ   ʒ (x) h
Approximant ɹ j (ʍ)   w
Lateral l
Tap (ɾ)
Trill (r)

  1. In North American English, the /t/ between vowels is often realized as an alveolar flap /ɾ/.
  2. The trill /r/ may be heard in some Scottish and Irish dialects and other dialects. It was once a regular sound in Old English.
  3. The fricative /x/ occurs in Scottish and Welsh dialects.
  4. The glottal stop /ʔ/ is an allophone of /t/ in some British dialects, e.g., intervocallically, or before syllable /n/ and /l/ as in button and bottle.
  5. Older books, or books more geared toward language learners or teachers, may combine the laterals and approximants and call them glides, or even liquids (a very old and imprecise term). Plosives are often called stops.