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Sex can be tricky to pronounce. I’ll show you exactly how to pronounce Sex as well its six minimal pairs. AND I’ll quiz you at the end of the video! Work hard and get them all right.
Sex. Sax. Sucks. Six. Sakes. Seeks. Socks.
The only difference in these words is the vowel or diphthong sound in the middle. I’ve had a lot of students who are worried about the pronunciation of a sex versus six, and I made an awesome video on that, check it out. That compares two vowels, EH and IH.
But I’ve noticed a lot of my students have a hard time with EH and AA, bed, bad, said, sad, bet, bat, leather, lather, and of course, sex, sax.
So in this video, we’re going to go over the difference in position for these vowels, and there will also be a listening comprehension quiz at the end, that you won’t want to miss. It will help solidify your pronunciation of these words. If you listen closely and train with the video, you’ll be ready to score well on the quiz. So stick around to the end to take it and let me know in the comments how you did.
What is sax? It’s a shortened way to stay the word saxophone. He plays sax in a jazz band. So the only difference between sex and sax is that vowel. EH versus AA. Let’s take a look at the position of these two sounds. The AA is on the left and the EH is on the right. The main difference is in the part of the tongue that lifts. For AA, it’s the back. Since my jaw drops, you can see inside my mouth. AA. And since the back of the tongue lifts and it comes down in the front, you should be able to see it quite a bit of the tongue. Aa, aa. It might also help to lift your top lip a little bit, aa, aa. That can help you get the right tongue position. Aa.
For EH, the jaw drops a little bit less and the part that lifts is closer to the front of the mouth. Eh, eh. One tip I give my students to help them find the correct position is this. Pretend you have a little mint in your mouth, and someone says: what’s in your mouth? And you go to show them. You open your mouth, you lift your tongue a little bit, but you don’t want the mint to fall out. Eh, eh, aa, eh, sax, sex. Say these two several times while looking at the pictures of the mouth position. Ah, eh, ah, eh, ah, eh.
Let’s look at a bunch of words that are real words in English that begin with the S consonant, and end with the KS cluster. Sex, six, sax, seeks, sakes, socks, sucks.
Sex, six, sax, seeks, sakes, socks, sucks.
If you don’t have all of these vowel or diphthong sounds in your own language. I can see how some of these would be pretty confusing. Now, I’ll quiz you. Which word am I saying? If you get one wrong, write that down, and write down the words you thought it was. That’s a minimal pair you’ll need to work on.
Sucks. That one was sucks. It sucks that you lost your job.
Sakes. That one was sakes. This one is actually usually singular, sake, for Pete’s sake, but some people do say the plural ‘for goodness sakes’, even though that’s not grammatically correct. These expressions both show exasperation, frustration. Oh, for Pete’s sake, stop screaming.
Sex. That one was sex. What is the sex of your baby?
Six. Six. She’s six years old.
Sex. That one was sex again.
Sax. That would was sax. He plays alto sax.
Socks. That one was socks. I wear socks to bed.
Six. That one was six again.
Seeks. That one was seeks. He seeks the truth.
Okay, now I’m going to go a little bit faster. Sex, sax, socks, six, sex, seeks, sax, six, sucks, sex, sakes, sax, six, socks.
How did you do? Let me know in the comments below how hard the quiz was for you. What are you having a hard time hearing? What feels easy? If there are certain minimal pairs you struggle with, there is a way to get better. Listening to minimal pairs over and over, as many word combinations as you can find like, bed, bad. Listen over and over, you will start to hear a difference.
In my Academy, I have long lists of comparison words for similar sounds with audio. My students work with this audio repetitiously, they start to hear the difference, and then they’re able to imitate them and sound native. It’s truly amazing. If you’re interested in learning more about the academy, click here, or find the link the video description.
I hope this video has helped. I have lots of other videos on the vowel sounds of American English. Click here to see my playlist for a how-to on all of those vowel sounds. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.