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How to pronounce P vs. B in English

The P and B in English may seem to you like two harmless and simple sounds, unlike the American R or TH, for instance.

But! (You know there’s always a BUT, right?)
If you confuse them, there’s trouble.

Well, not like going-into-jail kind of trouble,
but more like mispronouncing the word ‘pitch’ a few times without understanding why everyone in the room is so quiet all of a sudden.

Being aware of the voiced and voiceless sounds of English is so so important for clarity, and this vowel pair P-B is a perfect example of that.

In this lesson you’ll learn:
1. How to pronounce the B and P and how to not confuse them
2. How to pronounce the aspirated P in English



Hey there! It’s a Hadar and this is the Accents way.
And today we’re gonna talk about how to pronounce the b sound and p sound and how to not confuse them.
Now let’s begin at the beginning. These two consonants are a consonant pair where they’re both pronounced the same except for one thing that distinguishes the pronunciation.

Now that one thing is the voice. The P sound is produced with the lips closing the air pressure builds up and then you release the air with a puff: p, p,
Here it’s just the air that comes out for your mouth.
For the B sound, everything happens exactly the same way.

Only this time the vocal cords are vibrating.
Take a look at my lips
p – b
Same thing, right?

The P sound is usually aspirated in American English when it appears at the beginning of the word or at the beginning of a stressed syllable as in the word “pay”. So it feels like you have a little H right after.

p(h)ay, p (h)eople

It’s like you’re whispering before you are pronouncing the vowel that comes after the P.

Okay? So that’s the P sound. For the B you want to activate your vocal cords.
Now to understand how to activate your vocal cords intentionally let’s try it with a different consonant pair.

So let’s start with an F sound where the bottom lip touches the top teeth. f-f
Now put your hands here on your throat now turn it gradually to up you sound a V sound, v-v

We created a different sound but we haven’t changed anything here, right.

let’s do it again
Now did you feel the vibrations here, on your throat? These are the vocal cords vibrating creating a different sound but still while keeping everything the same.
So same thing with a P sound and the B, b-b
To make the B sound you want to activate your vocal cords.
So again let’s start with a f-v sound for others maybe the S verses Z sound, S versus Z might be easier to practice.
So try this. ss-zz
The most important thing is that you recognize when your vocal chords start vibrating
ss-zz, ff-vv

And then the same thing you want to start doing with P sound and the B. p-p Activate the vocal chords p-b

Now what we’ve done here is we learned how to pronounce the B sound for people who already know how to pronounce the P sound and tend to substitute the B with a P.

However, some speakers may do the other thing. They know how to pronounce the B but the P is difficult for them.
So let’s start now from the B and understand how we pronounce a P sound.

So let’s start with a B which might be easier for you.
For example, for Arabic speakers, there’s only B in the language and not a P.

So let’s start b, b.
Now say the word “bay”. Bay, like Baywatch, right.

And now I want you to whisper this word: pay, pay

Now when you’re whispering a B sound you’re actually pronouncing a P sound.

Listen: pay

The beginning is the same the whispered “bay” versus the word “pay” pronounce normally.

So again a whispered B sound is actually a P sound.

So that’s how you can start practicing it.

Let’s say you want to say the word “pack”, “pack”

and what comes out is “back”, “back”.

So let’s start with whispering the word: back, back and then start with a whisper and move on to the word “pack”, “pack”.
And make sure that you control your vocal cords so they don’t vibrate as you pronounce the P sound.

and pack

Okay, that’s it. Thank you so much for watching.

Now I want you to write down in the comments below as many minimal pairs as you can come up with of B and P.

For example, bay-pay, back-pack. Okay?

I’m waiting to see all your comments and also it’s going to be an excellent practice resource for the community.

If you like this video then be sure to subscribe to my youtube channel and click the bell to get notifications
and you can also come and check on my website theaccentsway.com

where you’ll find a lot of free stuff and you can subscribe, suBscribe not suPscribe.
It’s a B sound, not of a P, Hadar!

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Have a beautiful week and I will see you next week in the next video!

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
234. How to pronounce P vs. B

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever struggled with pronouncing the /b/ and /p/ sounds in English? And if not, what’s the most complicated English sound for you to pronounce?

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10 Responses

  1. Dear Hadar.
    My problem at the moment is that my browser Safari does not pick up your video. I will have to change over to Google Chrome. I will try to do it myself or wait for my son-in- law to do it for me.
    I enjoyed you U-tube lessons very much!

  2. What is the hack Hadar!!!!
    you’re such an awesome teacher and a fabulous coach.
    You just make it easy to differentiate between both P and B, great JOB!

  3. Good evening hadar
    That great video I start to understand the different between b & p
    Thanks for all your effort
    You alawyes great person
    You are high symbol for all middle East youth
    Your student
    Ahmed fathy

    1. Hey Mendi, thank you for your comment! We’ve just checked: you’re a Hadar’s weekly newsletter subscriber) If you don’t get her letters please let us know and we’ll fix it) have a great weekend!

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