Correct Pronunciation of “th”

English Phonology

Many students have problems distinguishing between unvoiced Θ (th in words such as "think") and voiced đ (th in words such as "this"). Indeed, there is no hard and fast rule for which sound is used where, and words generally have to be learned individually. This lesson plan allows practice in listening and speaking. The article also includes a download of a word list, answer grid, and the maze game.


The students listen to the teacher clearly pronouncing some of the words (20 is a good number) from the "th" Words List and decide which sound the word contains. They record their results on the Answer Grid for "th" Words Listening Exercise.

Go through the answers afterwards. Be careful to note which words are causing problems for some or all of the students.


Give the students a handout of the "th" Words List. They should now practice reading the words with the correct sound.

Once they are confident about individual words, have them put a few "th" words together in one sentence:

  • three words with the soft (unvoiced) sound Θ in one sentence
  • three or more words with the hard (voiced) sound đ in one sentence
  • a mixture of the two th sounds in one sentence.

More advanced students could try to make a story from twelve or more of the words. The result can be quite amusing!

Maze Game

In the activity "th" Words Maze for ESL Students, students must find a path from START to FINISH through words with the soft (unvoiced) Θ sound. They can either do this individually (one sheet for each student) or in pairs.

Pair activity: Each student has a different colored pencil or highlighter. The first student goes as far as he/she can, choosing and pronouncing only Θ words and highlighting or coloring these according to his/her color. Whenever a mistake is made—either in choosing the correct word or in pronouncing the word—the second student takes over, but must begin at START. This allows for a lot of speaking practice. However, he/she can only color in the new boxes, not any already colored. The winner is the person who gets to the FINISH with no mistakes.