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The THR consonant cluster is incredibly tough. It includes 3 of the most difficult sounds in American English! Let me break it down for you.
Recently, my son Stoney turned 3. And it got me thinking about the THR consonant cluster. The THR cluster combines two of the hardest sounds in American English. So in today’s video, we’re going to break it down into easy and efficient steps. I’ll show you how to practice to help make the words with these sounds more comfortable. You’ll also learn powerful new vocabulary words that have this THR cluster like, throng, throwback, and threadbare.
Stoney still can’t do a TH. He says free instead of three. This became especially clear when he turned three recently. Three. Can you say three?
The TH is unvoiced. I can’t think of any words where the TH in this cluster is voiced. So if you can think of any words put them in the comments. For the unvoiced th, the tongue tip must come through the teeth. Thh– It’s just the very tip. I’ve made a couple of videos that go more in depth on the TH. And if you haven’t seen them yet check out this playlist. And please note it’s just the tip. I’ve seen lots of students put way too much of the tongue out incorrect. Just the tip. There’s no pressure, just a light free flow of air. The tongue tip is the most forward for TH out of all of the sounds. And out of all of the sounds, the tongue tip is the furthest back for the R. Let’s look at two photos.
We have the TH on the left and the R on the right. Tongue tip through the teeth for the TH then pulled slightly back for the R. I’m going to put the photos one on top of the other now. I want you to see that even though they are the two extremes for tongue position in English. The difference isn’t huge. The tip is slightly through the front teeth and then pulled slightly back.
Thir– Thir– Thir–
Look at the positions side-by-side again. What else is different? The lips. They’re totally relaxed for the TH but flared for the R. Let’s look at some closed slow-motion footage. This is from an older video where I’m going over the pronunciation of the word thrifty, which is used to describe someone who spends money carefully, does not waste money tries to spend as little as possible. The tongue tip comes through the teeth. Not too much of the tongue, just the tip. Now, the lips come in a bit, a little flair. Do you see that tension in the corners of the lips? That’s what we do to make the lips come in for that small flare. Compare that with the corners of the lips totally relaxed. This is for the EE as in she vowel at the end of the word. Let’s look again. This time from the front. Tongue tip through the teeth, then the lips flare slightly.
Remember, the tongue tip is pulled back a bit for the sound. Practice this cluster with me.
Thr– thr– thr–
I really recommend practicing holding out the R. Thrrr— it often helps my students find the correct position. Let’s do some words. Say them out loud with me. Don’t just watch. We’ll say the word once, then we’ll say it holding out the R, then we’ll say it again. I’ll also do a sentence for each word, and for each word that I think you might not know, i’ll give you the definition. These are all of the most common words with THR that you might find.
Three, thrrr– three, three.
My son just turned 3.
Through, thrrr– through.
It’s a difficult time but we’ll get through.
Throw, threw, thrown, throwing, throws, throwback.
Throw, thrrrow, throw.
Notice this is an irregular verb. For the past tense, you don’t add ED. Throw becomes threw. That’s a homophone, meaning it sounds exactly the same as the word we just did: through.
But here the word is throw, throw. Don’t throw it away, I might need it later.
Threat, threaten, threatened, threatening, threats.
Don’t bully me. Don’t threaten me.
Threat, thrrrrreat, threat.
Throat, thrrrrroat, throat.
I have a sore throat.
Thrust, thrrrrrust, thrust.
He thrusts the sword into his enemy.
Thread, thrrrrrread, thread.
There’s a loose thread on my shirt.
This is when something made of fabric like clothing or furniture, maybe a stuffed animal, gets very worn with age.
The rugs in the hotel were threadbare. They need to be replaced.
Threshold. This word is interesting because the letter H goes with S to make the SH sound, but then it also makes an H. Threshold. This is the bottom part of a doorway. You cross over it to get into a room. We also use it to mean the point at which something changes. You have to keep a GPA of 3.0 to keep your scholarship below that threshold and you lose it.
Threshold, thrrrrresh-hold, threshold.
Thrill, thrilling, thrills, thrilled.
I’m thrilled to have you as my student.
Thrill, thrrrrill, thrill.
Thrive, thrives, thriving.
To prosper, grow, or develop.
Stoney is thriving at his new daycare.
Thrive, thrrrive, thrive.
To thrash something is to beat it, hit it. We also use it in sports when a team wins by a large margin.
The soccer team took a thrashing last night, they lost 0 to 5. Thrash, thrrrash.
Thrush. This is a kind of bird. The thrush has a lovely song. Thrrrush. Thrush.
Throng. A throng is a crowd, many people, densely packed in. There was a throng of people at the grocery store just before the snowstorm. Throng, thrrrrrong, throng.
Throttle. A flap T, a dark L, this is a very tricky word. This means to control the flow of something like fuel to an engine, or bad policies could throttle innovation, slow it down. It can also mean to choke someone. Full throttle means at top speed. Did you finish all your work last night? Yeah, I was going full throttle. Throttle, thrrrrottle, throttle.
Throb, throbbing. To beat, pulsate. I was so nervous my heart was throbbing. Throb, thrrrob, throb.
Thrift, thrifty. We have to be really thrifty this month because we overspent last monTH. Thrifty, thrrrifty, thrifty.
Thrombosis. A medical term the formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel. Thrombosis, thrrrrombosis, thrombosis.
There you have it. We’re through the throng of words with a THR cluster. Is your heart throbbing? Have you reached the threshold where you really understand how to make this cluster? What a thrill! You are really thriving! Why don’t you keep going full throttle?
Watch my video that goes over the idiom to pay through the nose, through, thr–, a THR cluster word. What combinations are the hardest for you? What’s been the most helpful about this video? How can you take today’s lesson and put it into action in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.