TH and F minimal pairs
Minimal pairs are words that differ by one sound only. They are helpful for speech therapy as well as for helping young learners and ESL students perfect their pronunciation. As an added bonus you will find students will pick up some new vocabulary while articulating these words.
There are 3 free printable PDF sheets of TH and F minimal pairs cards on this page that feature both pictures and words. They can be printed, cut out, and used for learning games. You can, for example, play flashcard games or make several copies of the cards to play popular card games.
Finally, you can cut the words from the bottom of the cards so that they can be matched with the pictures for an extra vocabulary learning activity.
TH and F pronunciation guides
To make the TH sound place the tip of your tongue between your top and bottom teeth. Make sure your tongue pokes out a little. As you make the sound blow air out of your mouth. Note that this is an unvoiced sound, there should be no vibration or buzzing in your throat.
The F sound is also unvoiced. This time put your top teeth on your lower lip. Next just push air through your mouth and past your teeth.
TH and F minimal pairs word list
Here is a list of the minimal pairs you may want to use for other activities. Some of these words may be pronounced differently according to your nationality. Additionally, there are some words you may not agree with such as thang (US slang for thing), or Fred as a name. For this particular list, all the words were found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Note that while most of these minimal pairs are at the start of the word (initial position), there are a few with the sound difference being at the end of the word (final position)
|death - deaf||doth - duff||loath - loaf||oath - oaf|
|thang - fang||thaw - four||thief - fief||thin - fin|
|think - fink||third - furred||thirst - first||thistle - fissile|
|thorn - fawn||thorough - furrow||thought - fort||thread - Fred|
|threat - fret||three - free||three-way - freeway||threes - freeze|
|thresh - fresh||thrill - frill||throw - fro||throws - froze|
|thrush - frush||thug - fug||thunder - funder||troth - trough|
|with - whiff||wreath - reef|
Practice sentences using the minimal pairs TH and F
Here are a few silly sentences you can get your students to read aloud for an extra fun speaking exercise –
The three free oafs took an oath.
Looks at Fred’s threads!
A three-way conversation on the freeway.
She was thrilled it was frilled.
Four thin fins thawed next to a wreath on the reef.
The thought of a fort with a whiff of smoke.
If you would like another fun activity that uses the TH sound, have a look at the TH sound tongue twisters.
For more practice with the F sound there are the F tongue twisters and the F and V minimal pairs.