Home / English Lessons / “sh” [ʃ] vs.”ch” [tʃ] | English Pronunciation Lesson

“sh” [ʃ] vs.”ch” [tʃ] | English Pronunciation Lesson

..or listen to the audio while reading the text to improve you listening skills!

Some English language learners, especially native Thai and Spanish speakers, have a hard time distinguishing the “sh” [ʃ] and “ch” [tʃ] sounds in English. The sounds are very similar, but they are definitely not the same to a native English speaker. To produce the  “sh” [ʃ] and “ch” [tʃ] sounds, 

  1. Your lips round a bit, halfway into pucker 
  2. Your top and bottom teeth get close to each other

What’s Different | “sh” [ʃ] vs.”ch” [tʃ]

When you produce the  “sh” [ʃ] sound, see how long you can hold it for. Here, I’ll hold it for about 5 seconds.

  •  “sh” [ʃ] (1…2…3…4…5)

Now, try to hold the  “ch” [tʃ] sound for that same 5 seconds.

  •   “ch” [tʃ] (1…)

Did you hear that? You can’t hold the “ch” [tʃ] sound after you produce it once. And therein lies the difference between the two sounds.

  •  “sh” [ʃ] –> requires a flow of air through your teeth, which allows you to hold the sound for a long time. (This is probably why the sound is used as a way to say “be quiet” in English).
    •  “sh” [ʃ]
  • “ch” [tʃ] –> is produced with one strong puff of air through the teeth which is then stopped.
    • “ch” [tʃ]

Now do you hear the difference? To review, the difference is in the use of air and how long you can hold the sound. Both sounds are voiceless, meaning that the vocal chords do not vibrate when you produce them. Let’s practice.

Listen and Repeat

I’ll emphasize the “ch” and “sh” sounds more than I normally would, so that you can clearly hear the difference.

  • Shin vs. chin  [ʃɪn] vs. [ɪn]
  • Shine vs. chime  [ʃaiyn] vs. [aiym]
  • Wash vs. Watch  [waʃ] vs. [wa]
  • Chanel® vs. Channel [ʃaNɛL] vs. [æ  nɫ]
  • Chic vs. cheek [iyk] vs. [ʃiyk] (Note: “chic” and “Chanel” are words borrowed from French, so the spelling “ch” is pronounced [ʃ])

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