Skip to content

The consonant contrast between /z/ and /s/ primarily lies in their voicing distinction.

1. Voicing

/z/ is a voiced consonant, meaning that it is produced with vocal cord vibration, resulting in a buzzing or humming sound. On the other hand, /s/ is voiceless, meaning that it is produced without vocal cord vibration, resulting in a sharp, hissing sound.

2. Articulation

Both /z/ and /s/ are alveolar fricatives, which means they are produced by creating a narrow passage of air through the tongue and the alveolar ridge (the bumpy ridge behind the upper front teeth). However, the key difference lies in their voicing, as mentioned above.

3. Sound Examples

To get a better understanding of the contrast, consider the following examples:

– /z/: The “z” sound is commonly heard in words like “zebra,” “zipper,” and “zero.” When pronouncing these words, you’ll notice the vibration of your vocal cords.

– /s/: The “s” sound is found in words like “sun,” “sit,” and “sister.” Pronouncing these words, you’ll notice the absence of vocal cord vibration, resulting in a sharper sound.

4. Minimal Pair

A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ by only one sound, and they can help highlight the contrast between two phonemes. In the case of /z/ and /s/, we can find a minimal pair like “zoo” and “sue.” The only difference between these two words is the initial consonant sound, where “z” in “zoo” is voiced, while “s” in “sue” is voiceless.

It’s important to note that the way sounds are pronounced can vary based on factors such as accent, dialect, and individual speech patterns. The descriptions provided here are based on a general understanding of the sounds /z/ and /s/ in English.

/Z/                                                                          /S/

TENS                                                                      TENSE

FENS                                                                      FENCE

PLEASE                                                                 POLICE

SEIZE                                                                     CEASE

PHASE                                                                   FACE

KNEES                                                                   NIECE

TRAYS                                                                   TRACE

GROWS                                                                GROSS

DENS                                                                     DENSE

CAUSE                                                                  COURSE

GRAZE                                                                  GRACE

FEARS                                                                   FIERCE

ZEAL                                                                      SEAL


Use a good dictionary to find the pronunciation of the words noted below.

Identify the position of /z/ sound in each of the words.

Amaze, crazy, husband, cousin, whose, vows, dessert, surprise, examine


Identify the position of /s/ sound in each of these words:

  • Swiss (ii) disband          (iii) fancy              (iv) case                (v) circle               (vi) scheme         (vii) psalm                (viii) sent             (ix) parcel            (x) snuff

    See also



    CONTRAST /t/ and /s/



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Get Fully Funded Scholarships

    Free Visa, Free Scholarship Abroad

               Click Here to Apply