The Sounds of ‘S’

What sound comes to your mind when you think of the letter ‘s’? Is it the hissing sound ‘ssssssssss’? You would be right. The hissing sound ‘ssss’ is the default sound of the letter ‘s’. However, did you know that the letter ‘s’ also makes 3 other sounds? It sure does.

Let us learn these sounds. Before we begin, you might want to check our earlier articles on letters and sounds. This one talks about introduction to Phonics. Read about the sounds of letter ‘a’ in this and the ‘v/w’ sounds in this. Learn how to ‘read a sound’ in this article.

Sounds of letter ‘s’

Due to the non-ideal phonemic orthography of English, the letter ‘s’ makes more than one sound. In fact, it makes four different sounds. Now, let us look at the four sounds. In the following paragraphs, the sound is denoted using both International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) notations.

Sound 1 – as in sun – s (IPA)             s (AHD)

Other examples: see, first, ranks

Sound 1 of s

Sound 2 – as in bugs – z (IPA)          z (AHD)

This sound is usually observed at the middle or end of words.

Other examples: kids, observe, has

Sound 2 of s

Sound 3 – as in sugar – ʃ (IPA)                      sh (AHD)                      

Other examples: sure

Sound 3 of s

Sound 4 – as in treasure – ʒ (IPA)                 zh (AHD)

Other examples – measure, usual

Sound 4 of s

Listen to the audio file to learn the four different sounds of letter ‘s’. Isn’t it interesting?

Sounds of letter s

Here is an exercise for you. Find all the words containing the letter ‘s’ in this article. Which sound of ‘s’ does each word make? Did you find all the four sounds? Let us know by writing a comment. Can you think of any other sounds for the letter ‘s’?


All the articles related to Phonics on our blog can be found here.


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Featured image credits: Muhammad Haseeb Muhammad Suleman from Pixabay

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Dr. Soumya Sreehari

Co-Founder and Specialist at NumberNagar®
Dr. Soumya is an Educator and Researcher with a passion for reading, writing and teaching. She holds a PhD in Chemistry (Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA). Her experience as a student and a teacher in two countries led her to pursue a career in Education. Her core work at NumberNagar® involves quality delivery of product and services at every stage of the customer life cycle. She leads the team that makes this happen. Previously she has taught Chemistry to first year undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University. She is a voracious reader and challenges herself to read 50 books every year.

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