Consonant Sounds and Letters in English {A-z Guide}

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consonant is a speech sound that is not a vowel.

It as well stands for the letters of the alphabet that stand for those sounds: Z, B, T, G, and H.

Consonants are all the non-vowel sounds, or their corresponding letters: A, E, I, O, U and occasionally Y are not consonants. In fact, H and T are consonants.

Consonant can as well be an adjective that describes things that appear like they ought to go together, things that are “agreeable.”

You could say a nation’s proposition of aid is consonant with their treaties.

When you hear consonant sounds in music, they are pleasing, the opposite of “dissonant” sounds.

A consonant is a letter of the alphabet that stands for a speech sound produced by a incomplete or absolute obstruction of the air stream by a limitation of the speech organs.

Examples and Observations:

“There are 21 consonant letters in the written English alphabet (B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z), and there are 24 consonant sounds in the majority of English accents. Due to the erratic history of English spelling, there is no neat one-to-one correlation between letters and sounds.”

The 24 normal consonants are present in the following words, at the beginning except otherwise specified: pale, tale, kale, bale, dale, gale, chain, Jane, fail, thin, sale, shale, hale, vale, this, zoo; (in the middle of) measure, mail, nail; (at the end of) sing, lay, rail, wail, Yale.

Not one of these consonants is spelled in an entirely consistent way in English, and a few of them are spelled very oddly and randomly indeed. Note that our alphabet has no single letters for spelling the consonants in chain, thin, shale, this, measure, and sing.

Those letters that are commonly used for spelling consonants may be known as consonant letters, but calling them consonants is loose and misleading.”

In a phonetic description, we differentiate vowels from consonants in terms of the way they are expressed in the vocal tract, and the associated patterns of auditory energy.”B stands for possibly the same sound carried by the equivalent letter in Near Eastern alphabets of 30 or 40 centuries ago.

It is a consonant sound. Thus, B is a consonant letter, the first in alphabetical sequence of our 21. If asked at a dinner party to describe the word ‘consonant,’ someone might venture, ‘Well, I know it’s not a vowel . . .’ and that actually is the best starting point.

Whereas vowels are pronounced from the vocal cords with minimal shaping of expelled breath, consonant sounds are created through obstruction or channeling of the breath by the lips, teeth, tongue, throat, or nasal passage, variously combined.

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Some consonants, like B, involve the vocal cords; others don’t. Some, like R or W, flow the breath in a way that steers them relatively close to being vowels.”

The Lighter Side of Consonants

Lost Consonants is a text and image word play series which demonstrates a sentence from which a crucial letter has been removed, changing its meaning.

Welcome to a world where children have leaning difficulties and infancy can become obsessed to rugs; where firemen wear fame-resistant clothing, and footballers get encampment in their legs; where dogs start baking and horses start catering, and where, after several days without water, everyone is really thirty.”

Pronunciation of Consonant Sounds

When pronouncing consonants, air flow is interrupted or limited by the position of the tongue, teeth or lips.

The majority of letters in the alphabet are consonant letters. The Majority of consonant letters have only one sound and hardly ever sound like their name.

All the letters in the alphabet are either consonants or vowels. A consonant is a speech sound in which the air is at least partially blocked, and any letter which represents this. Consonants may come singly or in clusters, but ought to be linked to a vowel to form a syllable.

Consonants have friction when they are spoken, majorly making use of the position of the tongue against the lips, teeth and roof of the mouth. b and p are plosives, with the use of the lips to create a tiny sharp sound. Phonetics texts offer more details, with diagrams.

Consonants may be voiced or unvoiced. The th in the is voiced, but in breath is not.

There are 21 consonant letters in English, for 24 consonant sounds in most English accents. Due to the history of the English language, there is no neat one-to-one relationship between letter and sound. th and ch each stand for a single sound, and x in fox stands for two sounds (ks). All these letters are consonants:

B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, (sometimes Y), and Z. “Y” is often used as a consonant, but it is at other times used as a vowel. For instance, in the word yellow, y is a consonant. But in the word happy, y is a vowel.

The rest of the letters of the alphabet are known as vowels. Vowels are underdone, for there are about 20 vowel sounds in the majority of English accents. The vowels are:

A, E, I, O, U (and sometimes Y)

In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are [p], pronounced with the lips; [t], pronounced with the front of the tongue; [k], pronounced with the back of the tongue; [h], pronounced in the throat; [f] and [s], pronounced by forcing air through a narrow channel (fricatives); and[m] and [n], which have air flowing through the nose (nasals). Contrasting with consonants are vowels.

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Since the number of probable sounds in all of the world’s languages is much greater than the number of letters in any one alphabet, linguists have worked out systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to allocate a unique and unmistakable symbol to each attested consonant.

In fact, the English alphabet has fewer consonant letters than English has consonant sounds, so diagraphs like “ch”, “sh”, “th”, and “zh” are used to extend the alphabet, and a few letters and digraphs stand for more than one consonant. For instance, the sound spelled “th” in “this” is a dissimilar consonant than the “th” sound in “thin”. (In the IPA they are transcribed [ð] and [θ],


The word consonant comes from Latin oblique stem consonant-, )”sounding-together (letter)”, Dionysius Throax calls consonants sýmphōna “pronounced with” because they can only be pronounced with a vowel. He divides them into two subcategories: hēmíphōna, semivowels (“half-pronounced”)  which correspond to continuants, not semivowels, and áphōna, mute or silent consonants (“unvoiced”), which correspond to stops, not voiceless consonants.

This description does not apply to a few human languages, like the Salishan languages, in which stops sometimes take place without vowels, and the modern conception of consonant does not need co-occurrence with vowels.


The word consonant is also used to refer to a letter of an alphabet that denotes a consonant sound. The letter Y stands for the consonant /j/ in yoke, the vowel /ɪ/ in myth, the vowel /i/ in funny, and the diphthong /aɪ/ in my. W always represents a consonant apart from in combination with a vowel letter, as in growth, raw, and how, and in a few loanwords from Welsh, such as crwth or cwm.

Consonants against vowels

Consonants and vowels correspond to different parts of a syllable: The most resonant part of the syllable (that is, the part that’s easiest to sing), known as the syllabic peak or nucleus, is characteristically a vowel, while the less resonant margins are known as the onset and coda) are characteristically consonants.

Syllables like that may be abbreviated CV, V, and CVC, where C stands for consonant and V stands for vowel. This can be argued to be the only pattern present in the majority of the world’s languages, and possibly the key model in all of them. Nevertheless, the distinction between consonant and vowel is not At all times clear cut: there are syllabic consonants and non-syllabic vowels in a lot of the world’s languages.

One fuzzy area is in segments variously known as semivowels, semiconsonants, or glides.

On the one side, there are vowel-like segments that are not in themselves syllabic but that form diphthongs as part of the syllable nucleus, as the iin English boil [bɔɪl]. On the other, there are approximants that act like consonants in shaping onsets but are spoken very much like vowels, as the y in English yes [jɛs].

A few phonologists model these as both being the underlying vowel /i/, so that the English word bit would phonemically be /bit/, beet would be /biit/, and yield would be phonemically /iiild/. Similarly, foot would be /fut/, food would be /fuud/, wood would be /uud/, and wooed would be/uuud/.

Nevertheless, there is a (perhaps allophonic) dissimilarity in verbalization between these segments, with the [j] in [jɛs]yes and [jild] yield and the [w] of [wud] wooed having more constriction and a more definite place of articulation than the [ɪ] in [bɔɪl] boil or [bɪt] bit or the [ʊ] of [fʊt] foot.

The other problematic area is that of syllabic consonants, segments articulated as consonants but dwelling in the nucleus of a syllable. This may be the case for words like church in rhotic dialects of English, even though phoneticians vary in whether they consider this to be a syllabic consonant, /tʃɹtʃ/, or a rhotic vowel, /tʃɝtʃ/: A few distinguish an approximant /ɹ/ that corresponds to a vowel /ɝ/, for rural as /ɹɝl/ or [ɹɝl]; others view these as a single phoneme, /ɹɹl/.

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Other languages make use of fricative and frequently trilled segments as syllabic nuclei, as in Czech and a lot of languages.

A lot of Slavic languages permit the trill [r] and the lateral [l] as syllabic nuclei. In languages like Nuxalk, it is tricky to know what the nucleus of a syllable is, or if all syllables even have nuclei. If the concept of ‘syllable’ applies in Nuxalk, there are syllabic consonants in words like /sxs/ (/sxs/?) ‘seal fat’. Miyako in Japan is similar, with /fks̩/ ‘to build’ and /psks/ ‘to pull’.

Every spoken consonant can be distinguished by quite a few phonetic attributes:

The method of articulation

This is  is how air escapes from the vocal tract when the consonant or approximant (vowel-like) sound is produced. Methods include stops, fricatives, and nasals.

The place of articulation is where in the vocal tract the obstruction of the consonant takes place, and which speech organs are involved. Places include bilabial (both lips), alveolar(tongue against the gum ridge), and velar (tongue against soft palate).

Additionally, there may be a simultaneous narrowing at another place of articulation, like palatalisation or pharyngealisation.

The phonation of a consonant is the way the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation. When the vocal cords vibrate completely, the consonant is said to be voiced; when they do not vibrate at all, it is said to be voiceless.

The voice onset time (VOT) shows the timing of the phonation. Aspiration is a trait of VOT.

The airstream mechanism is the way the air moving through the vocal tract is power-driven.

The length is how long the obstruction of a consonant lasts. This attribute is borderline characteristic in English, as in “wholly” [hoʊlli] vs. “holy” [hoʊli], but cases are limited to morpheme boundaries.

The articulatory force is the amount of muscular energy that is used..

All English consonants can be grouped by the amalgamation of these features, like “voiceless alveolar stop” [t]. In this instance, the airstream mechanism is omitted.

A few pairs of consonants like p::b, t::d are every now and then known as fortis and lenis, but this is a phonological instead of phonetic distinction.

About the Author: RaMaDan

“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

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