111: Linking /v/ and /f/

Practicing a few simple techniques can make it much easier to transition to and from the v sound and f sound.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 111 podcast.

In our last show, I talked about the v sound and f sound and the similarities between those sounds and the b sound, p sound, and w sound. There are three main points I want you to remember from that show:

1) The v sound is voiced, and the f sound is unvoiced.

2) The f sound and v sound are fricatives, and fricatives are continuous consonants. To create continuous consonant sounds, air must come out of the mouth smoothly and softly and evenly; the air must never completely stop during an f sound or a v sound or something similar to a b sound or p sound may accidentally occur.

3) The f sound and v sound are created when the air is pushed out of the mouth between the backside of the bottom lip and the frontside of the top teeth; the top lip must not be involved in a v sound, or a sound similar to a w sound may accidentally occur.

Today I'm going to expand on those ideas to tell you how to link to and from a v sound and f sound. Linking is smoothly transitioning from word to word in connected speech. The problem I most hear when non-native speakers are linking other sounds to or from a v sound or an f sound is that the speaker adds a slight vowel sound between the words. This usually occurs because the speaker is curling the bottom lip under the top teeth.

I blame us, the ESL/ELL teachers for this mistake! When we are teaching very new English language learners the sounds of English, we tend to over-emphasize the sounds. We make the sounds big and dramatic so that the learners can see and hear what we're doing. If your first language does not include a v sound or f sound, your teacher probably taught you to curl your bottom lip under your top teeth, then blow air out your mouth. Sure, with your bottom lip curled like that, you can make a big, beautiful, loud sound. Your teacher probably said you were doing it perfectly. And, indeed, the sound you were producing was very nice. It sounded exactly like we wanted it to sound.

However, what you were doing made it nearly impossible to move to and from certain other sounds, namely sounds that also require our lips to move a lot: the b sound, p sound, w sound, and the m sound.

If your lip is curled under your top teeth for the v sound, it is very hard to move from that sound into the b sound without accidentally adding a small, quick, vowel between the words. You would have a very hard time saying the sentence, "I've been practicing."

Did you hear the link between the words I've and been? There should be no break in sound between the words, and no added vowel sound either. I'll say it a few more times:

I've been
I've been
I've been

All it takes for a v sound or an f sound is a very small, soft vibration between the back of my bottom lip and the lower front of my top teeth. My jaw needs to be nearly closed for that to occur. My bottom lip does not curl into my mouth, it simply tips backward a little bit so that it is very near my top front teeth.

Let's practice a few words that include the v sound or f sound. These words will then be in a short paragraph that you can practice as often as you like, maybe even every day for a while, if you want to get really good at it! I want you to move your lips as little as possible, not curling them under your top teeth. Repeat the following words:


Now let's link those words to other words in small phrases. Practice moving between words without ever stopping the sound completely, and also not adding an accidental vowel sound between words. I'll leave time for you to repeat after me:

Don't add_vowel sounds
Move_from word to word
blending the sounds_very softly

Now here is the whole paragraph. I'll read a part, then wait for you to repeat it:

If you have_problems linking_frictives, practice_for_five_minutes every day. Don't add_vowel sounds between the words. Move_from word to word, blending the sounds_very softly.

If you would like a simple, short sentence to practice every day to help you practice getting from a v sound to a b sound, just say:

I've been practicing.
I've been practicing.

Free transcripts for this podcast episode can be found online at www.pronuncian.com/podcast. I'll also link to the Pronuncian lessons about linking with this show's transcripts.

If you'd like even more linking practice, you can become a subscriber to Pronuncian and have full access to all of our online exercises and quizzes, or you can purchase our Rhythm and Intonation ebook. The Rhythm and Intonation ebook has a whole chapter about linking to and from different kinds of sounds in English.

That's all for today everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening.