Home / English Lessons / [dʒ] “dg” and [z] vs. [ʒ] “zh” | English Pronunciation Lesson for Koreans (+ others!)

[dʒ] “dg” and [z] vs. [ʒ] “zh” | English Pronunciation Lesson for Koreans (+ others!)



For some people, including native English speakers, the consonant sounds [dʒ] “dg”, [z] and [ʒ] “zh”are not similar at all! But for those who do not have these consonant sounds in their first languages, like Koreans and some others, it can be difficult to  distinguish [dʒ] “dg”, [z] and [ʒ] “zh”.  

It’s important to practice the difference, though, because mixing up these sounds could confuse the listener and interfere with communication.

How to Pronounce [dʒ] [z] [ʒ]

The key to pronouncing these consonant sounds is to pay attention to the differences between:

  1. the flow of air through the teeth
  2. the length of time you can hold the sound.

Let’s analyze [z] vs. [ʒ] “zh” first.

[z] vs. [ʒ]

What’s similar | [z] & [ʒ]

1) I can hold these sounds for a while.

Both [z] (as in “zebra”) and [ʒ] “zh” (as in the middle of “measure”) are sounds you can hold for a while. Here, I’ll hold them for 4 seconds each. Try it with me.

  • [z]…[z]…[z]…[z]
  • [ʒ]…[ʒ]…[ʒ]…[ʒ]

2) They’re both voiced consonants.

Put your fingertips on the front of your neck, and make the [z] and [ʒ] sounds.

  • [z]
  • [ʒ]
  • [z]
  • [ʒ]

Did you feel something?   (<– notice how “did you” –> “didjya”)

When you say [z] and [ʒ], your vocal chords vibrate for both of these “voiced” consonants. 

So what’s the difference between [z] and [ʒ] “zh”?

What’s different | [z] & [ʒ]

Try to produce the [z] and [ʒ] sounds, and notice where the air is flowing through and where you feel the vibrations  in your mouth and at your teeth.

  • [z]
  • [ʒ]
  • [z]
  • [ʒ]

Did you feel it?

Here’s the *key difference* between the [z] and [ʒ] sounds.


To produce [z], the air flows through your FRONT teeth, which [gently] vibrate against each other.

  • [z]


To produce the [ʒ] “zh” sound, the air flows through your SIDE teeth and NOT primarily through your front teeth. The top and bottom teeth in the side/back of your mouth gently, but just barely, press against each other.

  • [ʒ]

Did you feel the difference? Try it again.


  • for the [z] sound, the air and vibration should be at your front teeth, which gently press against each other;
  • for the [ʒ] sound, the air and vibration should be at your side teeth, which gently press against each other.
    • [z] – front teeth
    • [ʒ] – side teeth
    • [z] – front teeth
    • [ʒ] – side teeth

Now, do you feel the difference?

[dʒ] “dg” vs. [ʒ] “zh”

What’s similar | [dʒ] “dg” vs. [ʒ] “zh”

The consonant sound [dʒ] “dg” (as in “judge”) is similar to [ʒ] “zh”, in that:

  1. It’s voiced, meaning the vocal chords vibrate when you produce both sounds; and
  2. the air flows through the SIDE teeth.
  • [dʒ] “dg”
  • judge” [ʌ]


What’s different | [dʒ] “dg” vs. [ʒ] “zh”

Unlike the [ʒ] “zh” sound, you canNOT hold the [dʒ] “dg” sound. (In this respect, [dʒ] “dg” is like [tʃ] “ch” as in “chicken”– it’s just ONE strong puff of air. Go ahead, and try to hold the [dʒ] “dg” sound for 5 seconds.

  • [dʒ] “dg”

See? You CAN’T hold it!  (<–practice the difference between “can” vs. “can’t”)  

So, there is the *key difference* between [dʒ] “dg” (as in “judge”) and [ʒ] “zh” (as in “measure”).

  • [ʒ] “zh” – I can hold the sound for a long time.
    • [ʒ]…[ʒ]…[ʒ]…[ʒ]
  • [dʒ] “dg” – I canNOT hold the sound at all. It’s simply one strong puff of air released from the mouth.
    • [dʒ] “dg”

Try it with me.

Listen and Repeat

  • [ʒ] “zh”
  • [dʒ] “dg”
  • [ʒ] “zh”
  • [dʒ] “dg”

Now let’s practice these three consonant sounds in words.

Listen and Repeat

Be sure to stress and de-stress syllables as I do.

[z] (front teeth)

  • “physical” [  zə  kɫ]
  • zebra” [ZiY brə]
  • “analyze” [Æ nə laiyz]
  • zone” [zown] (<–round your lips for the [ow] sound)

[ʒ] (side teeth and hold the sound]

  • “confusion” [kən FYUW  ʒən] (<–notice how I inserted a [y] sound in the second syllable)
  • “pleasure” [PLɛ  ʒɚr]
  • “garage” [gə ʒ]
  • “usually” [YUW ʒəl  liy]  (<– notice how I deleted the second syllable for efficiency)

[dʒ] (side teeth and one strong puff of air)

  • jealous” [dʒɛL ləs]
  • “dodge” []
  • “major” [MeY ɚr] (<–pull your lips back into a smile position to produce the [ey] vowel sound).
  • “procedure” [prə  SiY  ɚr]

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