Minimal Pairs: Pronunciation Problems with TH

There are many parts that are equally important to speaking English fluently. Some of the things we’ve reviewed recently on English Outside the Box have been vocabulary (words of the weekend) and grammar, specifically the future tense. However, knowing what to say, is just as important as knowing HOW to say it. Speaking with accurate pronunciation is incredibly important, and doing so can prevent miscommunication, and even embarrassment.

Minimal pair are words that are extremely similar, but differ in one unique sound. These sounds are often confused by language learners, so can create difficulty when speaking and listening. There are many minimal pairs, both vowels and consonants; however, today we’re only focusing on “th” “f” “t” and “s.” Yes, it is incredibly common for the “th” sound to be confused with these sounds, depending on native languages.

Try the following sentence:THsound1

Next, let’s review the video for you to see and hear how these sounds should be pronounced.

Now it’s your turn to practice! Focus on the difference in all of these sounds….


Sometimes multiple words exist, that are legitimate words with minimal pairs: three, tree, free. Other times, words don’t exist, so you’ll just be making up words as you communicate: mouth, mouf.

It’s also possible that multiple words, that are minimal pairs, can logically make sense in a sentence. So, mispronouncing the words can definitely cause confusion. Take these examples into consideration:
— I want three tickets to the game.
— I want free tickets to the game.

In one of these sentences, you want multiple tickets. In the other, you’re a free loader.

— I don’t want to think.
— I don’t want to sink.

In one of these sentences, you don’t want to use your brain, and the other you don’t want to float to the bottom of water.

Practice with the following sentences:

  1. Thirty-three thieves thought their brothers thought they were thoughtful, but they thought wrong because they are thieves.
  2. The mouse’s mouth is sore, thick, and I think it’s sick.
  3. Thelma thinks that three free trees are available on Thirty-third street.
  4. Ruth is on the roof and thinks: sing a thing, pass the path, and thank a tank.


Below are some additional minimal pair difficulties, and some of the languages that I’ve come across that have the biggest challenges. This list, of course, doesn’t include everyone within these languages and I apologize for forgetting the many…many other languages out there. These are just what I’ve had the most contact with lately. These lessons will come later….

R/H – Portuguese

V/W – Russian

R/L -Korean, Japan

S- Spanish, Portuguese

P/B – Arabic

B/V- Russian, Korean

V/F – German


Did this post help you with your pronunciation? Share with a friend, knowledge is power….so help spread the power!

If you haven’t yes, subscribe to my blog to always be updated with new English information.

Happy Studying! ♥

Words 1 & 2 of the Weekend: Pack & Rearrange

Why are they useful?

Packing is something you will definitely do in your life, if you haven’t already. You’ll pack for a vacation, when you move to a new place, your child’s lunch, or diaper bag, the list could go on. While you’re doing this, chances are, you’ll need more room because things won’t fit. So, what will you do? You’ll rearrange your luggage/box/bag! This is something I am currently doing, getting ready for our big trip today!

EX: Even though I packed my suitcase early, I forgot about some things I need to bring. I had to rearrange my clothes to create some extra space.

When’s the last time you had to rearrange what you had already packed?




Courtesy: Merriam Webster Learner’s Dictionary

Understanding the Future Tense (+ practice)

Think about the amount of times you speak in the future tense: talking about personal plans, work goals, vacations, schedules, predictions, etc… Learning and understanding the various ways you can communicate in the future will help you be more successful … Continue reading

Words 1 & 2 of the Weekend: Anxious & Relieved

Why are they useful? They’re common feelings, especially around the current World Cup events… Or of course, anything you can feel nervous about. 😉 They’re opposite feelings too. So, you feel relieved, when you no longer feel anxious.

EX: Paulo was feeling very anxious before Brazil’s game, but was relieved with their victory.

What are you relieved about that made you anxious before?




Courtesy: Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary


Are you in love? Express yourself with these English idioms!

To be in love with someone is certainly a special feeling. I am feeling extra, extra in love today because Paulo and I are celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary. ♥ In honor of us, this post will teach you 7 … Continue reading

Word 2 of the Weekend: yada yada

Why is it useful? The interjection is quite common and you’ll hear it informally often, especially when talking about routines or day-to-day actions.


Courtesy of: Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary

Word 1 of the Weekend: mesmerize

Why is it useful? Be mesmerized by the beauty around you. Find things to give your full attention and be in the moment.

What was the last thing that mesmerized you?



Courtesy: Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary

Word 1 of the Weekend: gist

Why is it useful ? It’s a type of TOEFL (academic English test) question, and sometimes, especially while learning, understanding the basic idea of something is the most important part. You can use it to summarize main ideas of a long story, or reiterate what was said.

How can you use “gist” in a sentence?


Courtesy: Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary