How to Pronounce “H” in English

Pronouncing H in EnglishSomething I’ve noticed is that many of my students and our community members have problems with pronouncing the H sound when speaking.

Pronunciation is certainly an important part of English learning. It’s something that you should always work to improve. But remember, the most important thing is to be understood. Even if your pronunciation is terrible, as long as native speakers still understand you, then you’re communicating, which is the number one purpose of language.

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So let’s work on the pronunciation of the letter H. This is difficult for most English learners because many other languages don’t have the H sound. Others have something similar (e.g. J and G in Spanish or the R in Portuguese and French) but adjusting to the sound of H in English is still difficult.

Learning to pronounce any new sound requires work and practice. Speaking uses muscles (tongue, lips, throat, etc.). And like with any muscle, you need to exercise it. Just like you can’t walk into a gym for the first time and bench press 100 Kilos, you can’t expect to pronounce H correctly when you begin learning English. And without practicing–working out your speaking muscles–you’ll never pronounce it correctly!

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Working Out Your Speaking Muscles

The H sound actually requires little work from the muscles in your mouth. It begins all the way down in your diaphragm (by your stomach). When you pronounce the H correctly, like in “Hello,” you’ll notice your stomach moves towards your spine, and you breath out. It’s pretty amazing how complex pronunciation is when you pay attention.

So, start by breathing out softly from the depths of your stomach. Let out a soft breath, as if you were cleaning your dirty sunglasses. Got it down [can you do it]?

Next let’s work on your lips. Depending on what vowel follows, your lips will move differently, but they should start out open in an oval shape.

Now practice saying these examples. Listen to the audio first, then try saying each word by yourself. Last, listen to the audio again, and correct any pronunciation errors.

Keep in mind that in these audios, I put emphasis on the H sound, but you don’t need to pronounce the “H” so hard. If you’re spitting when you speak, then that’s a good indicator to pronounce the H a little more softly.

Examples:

With A“H” + “A”

Half (1/2)

Ham (pork)

Happy

With E“H” + “E”

He

Heaven and Hell

Heavy

hippyWith I“H” + “I”

Beehive (where bees live)

Hippy

Hire (to contract someone to work for you)

With O“H” + “O”

Home

Hope

How

With U“H” + “U”

Humor

Husband

Hugs

With Y“H” + “Y”

Hyper (energetic)

Hyena (African wild dog)

Take it to the Next Level with Some Exercises

Tongue Twisters are a great way to improve your pronunciation in another language. Let’s focus on some that will help us work out those muscles that create the H sound.

Listen to the audio first, then try saying each word by yourself. Last, listen to the audio again, and correct any pronunciation errors.

H vs. R “H” vs. “R”

High roller,
Low roller,
HaresLower a roller

H vs. A/E 

“H” vs. “A/E”

The hare’s ear heard ere the hare heeded.

“H” vs. “A/E” 2

Harry Hunt hunts heavy hairy hares.
Does Harry Hunt hunt heavy hairy hares?
If Harry Hunt hunts heavy hairy hares,
Where are the heavy hairy hares Harry Hunt hunts?

Try repeating those over and again. Practice them in your car, in the shower, or any other time you’re alone. Doing this will strengthen the muscles you use to pronounce the H sound and it will get easier day by day!

For more fun tongue twisters, click here.

For more help with “H,” remember to watch this awesome video:

Now create opportunities to practice this in your Real Life: Remember to sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date with everything going on here and join the Real Life English International Community where you can meet people and really take your English to the next level.

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