The Letter S

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter S. It is the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. Wanna come in?

"The Letter S" in the English Alphabet

S is the nineteenth letter in the English alphabet. It is a consonant.

Consonants are the letters that are produced by stopping the letter from flowing easily.

Uppercase Form S
Lowercase s
Name ess (pronounced /ˈɛs/)
Common Sounds /s/, /z/

The Letter S: Sounds

The letter S has two sounds:

Common Sounds

Sound 1: /s/

's' mainly sounds /s/:

sun /sʌn/

skeleton /ˈskelɪtn/

mouse /maʊs/

oscar /maʊs/

Sound 2: /z/

's' can also sound /z/:

is /ɪz/

music /ˈmjuːzɪk/

mosaic /məʊˈzeɪɪk/

Other Sounds

Sound 3: /ʒ/

's' after 'ure', 'ual' sounds /ʒ/:

casual /ˈkæʒuəl/

measure /ˈmeʒər/

treasure /ˈtreʒər/

Asia /ˈeɪʒə/

The 's' in Asia is also pronounced /ʒ/.

Sound 4: /ʃ/

The letter 's' also sounds /ʃ/:

sugar /ˈʃʊɡər/

expansion /ɪkˈspænʃn/

dimension /dɪˈmenʃn/

tension /ˈtenʃn/

Sound 5: /∅/

Sometimes, the letter 's' is silent /∅/, mostly in loanwords:

isle /aɪl/

debris /dəˈbriː/

bourgeois /ˌbʊrˈʒwɑː/

apropos /ˌæprəˈpəʊ/

The Letter S: Multigraphs

Letter S can also appear in combinations with other letters (mainly consonants):

ss

'ss' sounds /s/:

dress /dres/

princess /ˈprɪnses/

compass /ˈkʌmpəs/

'ss' also sounds /z/:

scissors /ˈsɪzərz/

dessert /dɪˈzɜːrt/

possess /pəˈzes/

'ss' also sounds /ʃ/:

assure /əˈʃʊr/.

issue ˈɪʃ.uː/

sh

'sh' sounds /ʃ/:

ship /ʃɪp/

shark /ʃɑːrk/

fish /fɪʃ/

sc

'sc' sounds /s/, it means 'c' is silent /∅/:

muscle /ˈmʌsl/

science /ˈsaɪəns/

scent /sent/

sci

'sci' in the middle of words sound /ʃ/:

conscious /ˈkɑːnʃəs/

luscious /ˈlʌʃəs/

conscience /ˈkɑːnʃəns/

si

'si' in 'sion' at the end of words sounds /ʃ/:

propulsion /prəˈpʌlʃn/

pension /ˈpenʃn/

ssi

'ssi' in the middle of words sounds /ʃ/:

passion /ˈpæʃn/

expression /ɪkˈspreʃn/

Russia /ˈrʌʃə/

st

'st' in the middle of words sounds /s/ and 't' is silent /∅/:

castle /ˈkæsl/

Christmas /ˈkrɪsməs/

whistle /ˈwɪsl/

Tip

'sth' sounds /s/ in the word asthma, in other words 'th' is silent; however, in American English, 'sth' sounds /z/:

asthma /ˈæsmə/ /ˈæzmə/

ps

'ps' at the beginning of words sound /s/:

psychology /saɪˈkɑːlədʒi/

psyche /ˈsaɪki/

psychopath /ˈsaɪkəpæθ/

es

–es (suffix) is the usual mark of plural nouns. It is also the regular ending of English third person present tense verbs. It is mainly pronounced /'ez/ if the word ends in 'sg', 'ch', 'z', 'y', etc.:

wishes /wɪʃez/

witches /wɪtʃez/

boxes /bɑːksez/

varies /ˈværiz/

The Letter S: Uses

S can be used as
The mark of plural nouns, like books
The regular ending of English third person present tense verbs; like she works
The possession 's that shows 'belonging to', like Sam's shoes
The abbreviation of the word Saint
The abbreviation of the size small
The abbreviation of south, southern

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