Illustrations of Victorian gentlemen

Received Pronunciation consonant sounds

Listen to the 24 consonants used by RP speakers.

The sections below list all 24 consonants as pronounced in an RP accent. Every English accent contains these same 24 consonants, but not all speakers pronounce them in the same way. Click on a sound file to listen to an RP speaker using the target consonant.

The consonants are listed using a simple orthographic representation, alongside all the possible spellings and the symbol used in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You will find these IPA symbols in a dictionary where pronunciations of words are included. Click on the additional links to hear recordings of speakers whose pronunciation differs.

Additional consonants

Some speakers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have two additional consonants – the <hw> sound used in words like whisper and when and the guttural sound used for the final consonant in the Scots word loch. The IPA symbol for <hw> is /Ê?/. Speakers in Scotland and Northern Ireland may well, therefore, distinguish between words such as which and witch or whine and wine. The IPA symbol for the consonant in loch is /x/. This sound is used very rarely – most commonly on the exclamation, och, or on place names, such as Auchtermuchty and occasionally on local dialect words or on words of Gaelic origin. Many speakers in Wales on the other hand use 25 consonants – the same inventory as RP but with an additional <hl> sound. This sound is restricted to place names such as Llanelli. The IPA symbol for this consonant is /ɬ/ and many speakers in England have great difficulty pronouncing it.

(All sound files © BBC. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.) 

<p>

Spelling alternatives

pack, happy

note also the <p> sound in hiccough

IPA symbol

/p/

would, uh, leap up with a little note-pad

Recordings where pronunciation differs


<b>

Spelling alternatives

back, rabbit

IPA symbol

/b/

was in the new boys' booklet when we came


<k>

Spelling alternatives 

cut, kiss, lucky, occur, stomach, cheque, Iraq, pukka

note also the <kw> sound in words such as queen and acquire and the <ks> sound in words like six

IPA symbol

/k/

were striking up a conversation

Recordings where pronunciation differs


<g>

Spelling alternatives 

gut, buggy, ghost, guitar

note also the <gz> sound in words like exit

IPA symbol

/g/

I’ll give you a tenner if I can smash two eggs over your head


<t>

Spelling alternatives 

tip, matter, thyme

note also the <t> sound in past tenses such as jumped

IPA symbol

/t/

trolleys came in later

Recordings where pronunciation differs

see also T-tapping, T-voicing and T-glottaling connected speech processes


<d>

Spelling alternatives 

dip, ladder

IPA symbol

/d/

it’s difficult really, cause there are two sides to me: one; I’m still appalled at the quality of what we build


<f>

Spelling alternatives

fast, phrase, office, cough, sapphire

IPA symbol

/f/

the flights were not always full


<v>

Spelling alternatives 

vast, savvy, of

note also the <v> sound in conservative pronunciations of the word nephew

IPA symbol

/v/

remember my house in Sennybridge very vividly


<s>

Spelling alternatives 

sip, science, cease, class, psychology

note also the <ks> sound in words like six

IPA symbol

/s/

the seven-o-seven there were six of us, three stewards and three stewardesses


<z>

Spelling alternatives 

zip, rose, fizz, scissors

note also the <gz> sound in words like exit

IPA symbol

/z/

seen as quite bizarre having, uhm, boys, you know share after the, at the age of sixteen

Recordings where pronunciation differs


<th>

Spelling alternatives 

thin

IPA symbol

/ɵ/

to a certain point everything that we did and built was of the earth

Recordings where pronunciation differs

TH-fronting

<dh>

Spelling alternatives 

then

IPA symbol

/ð/

the rest of the day either in the garden or helping my mother and father in the shop

Recordings where pronunciation differs

TH-fronting

<sh> 

Spelling alternatives 

shed, machine, mission, station, tension, species, ocean, conscience, sugar, fascist, schedule

also the <ksh> sound in luxury and the <sh> sound in contemporary pronunciations of words such as tissue

IPA symbol

/ʃ/

putting animals into sheds that they couldn’t muck out with a machine


<zh>

Spelling alternatives 

genre, pleasure, montage, seizure

note also the <zh> sound in contemporary pronunciations of words such as casual

IPA symbol

/ʒ/

usually just going down to the beach and, and getting cockles or swimming


<ch>

Spelling alternatives 

chat, match, nature, righteous

also the <ch> sound in contemporary pronunciations of words such as tune, in Italian loan words such as concerto and cappuccino and in most pronunciations of words beginning orthographically with <tr-> such as tree and truck

IPA symbol

ʧ

of the chapels in Wales will close down; most of the churches will probably, too


<j>

Spelling alternatives 

job, gin, bridge, suggest, adjective

note also the <j> sound in contemporary pronunciations of words such as soldier and dune and in most pronunciations of words beginning orthographically with <dr-> such as drink and drug

IPA symbol

/ʤ/

I’d still be junior to the new steward two had just joined a year ago

Recordings where pronunciation differs


<m>

Spelling alternatives 

mat, summer, climb, autumn

IPA symbol

/m/

for two-and-a-half months first of all over the summer


<n>

Spelling alternatives 

net, funny, knife, gnat, pneumonia

IPA symbol

/n/

know, I mean, in the next ten years or so


<ng>

Spelling alternatives 

finger

IPA symbol

/ŋ/

think I’d see myself as being quite easy-going


<l>

Spelling alternatives 

let, silly

IPA symbol

/ɪ/

sort of list of about eleven words we had to learn

Recordings where pronunciation differs

L-vocalisation

<r>

Spelling alternatives 

right, write, hurry, rhyme

note also the linking <r> sound in phrases such as car insurance, burglar alarm etc.

IPA symbol

/ɹ/

barring a religious revival, that's going to happen

Recordings where pronunciation differs

see also

R-tapping
  • in connected
  • speech processes

<h>

hat

IPA symbol

/h/

son eventually came to live in a small house called Hill Hall

Recordings where pronunciation differs

H-dropping

<y>

Spelling alternatives 

yet

also the <y> sound in words such as few, new, music, tune and in some pronunciations of words like onion, brilliant etc.

IPA symbol

/j/

you really can let your whims rule


<w>

Spelling alternatives 

wet, when

note also the <kw> sound in words such as queen and choir, the <gw> sound in words like penguin, the <sw> sound in words like persuade, the initial <w> sound in one and once and the <w> sound in French loan words such as reservoir and memoir

IPA symbol

/w/

take fifteen months and see the world and do as many kind of wild and whacky things as you can

  • Jonnie Robinson
  • Jonnie Robinson is Lead Curator for Spoken English at the British Library. He has worked on two nationwide surveys of regional speech, the Survey of English Dialects and BBC Voices, and is on the editorial team for the journal English Today. In 2010/11 he co-curated the British Library exhibition Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. His latest publication Evolving English WordBank: a glossary of present-day English dialect and slang (2015) draws on sound recordings made by visitors to the exhibition.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.