Secrets of ‘s

American English Pronunciation Course

Did you know that ‘s is one of the most common “words” in the English language?

‘s may seem simple, but there are a few secrets to using and pronouncing it perfectly.

Three meanings for ‘s

‘s can mean three things in English:

  • Possessive
    My car is blue, but Mary‘s car is green.
  • Short form of “is”
    My brother‘s a student.
    (= My brother is a student.)
  • Short form of “has”
    She‘s finished her work.
    (= She has finished her work.)

Two ways to pronounce ‘s

‘s is pronounced like S in these words:

  • It’s
  • That’s
  • What’s

‘s is pronounced like Z in these words:

  • He’s
  • She’s
  • There’s
  • Here’s
  • Where’s
  • When’s
  • Why’s
  • Who’s
  • How’s

What’s the rule?

  • ‘S is pronounced S when it follows an unvoiced sound (a sound where you only hear air, like P, T, K, F, and TH)
  • ‘S is pronounced Z when it follows a voiced sound (where you add sound with your voice – R, D, M, N, most other consonants, and all vowels)

Practice Sentences: Listen and Repeat

‘s pronounced S:

  • It’s almost midnight.
  • That’s not a good idea.
  • What’s the best way to learn English?

‘s pronounced Z:

  • He’s eighteen years old.
  • She’s angry at me.
  • There’s a problem with my computer.
  • Here’s the book you asked for.
  • Where’s my calculator?
  • When’s your brother arriving?
  • Why’s the boss so upset?
  • Who’s that guy?
  • How’s work going?

Fluency Tip: Use ‘s as a connection

For native speakers, words that end in ‘s are connected to the next word:

  • It’s almost midnight. (not connected)
  • It’sssalmost midnight (connected – more natural)

Can you hear how the ‘s is connected to “almost”?

Here’s another example, this time with ‘s being pronounced as Z:

  • He’s eighteen years old.
  • He’zzzeighteen yearzold.

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