How To Pronounce Consonant Clusters

A consonant cluster is a group of consonants without a vowel in between. For example, the “thr” in “throw”, “spl” in “split” or “tch” in “match”.

They can be difficult because not all languages have them, but also because you have to move parts of your mouth quickly to make them. This can be difficult if they contain sounds like ‘th’ or ‘r’. When you pronounce them, make sure you aren’t adding an extra vowel in the middle or before them. (So it’s “please” not “puhlease”, “match” not “mat-uh-chuh” and “stay” not “e-stay”, for example.)

Try these consonant clusters, and listen to the audio for a model pronunciation. It helps to practise them again and again so you get practice moving the necessary parts of your mouth!

At the beginning of words

1. Clusters with ‘s’
These can be difficult for Spanish speakers. Be careful not to add an initial e sound. Try saying these words:
school, spring, slow, stay, sphere, smile, snap

school, spring, slow, stay, sphere, smile, snap

2. Clusters with ‘r’
These are difficult because of the tongue position of the ‘r’. This is where the back of your tongue is high in your mouth and the sides of tongue almost touch your top teeth. Try not to move your tongue too far back, or you end up with a French “r’ sound.

Practise with clusters of pr, gr, cr and tr:
pray, pro, practice, pretty, press
great, grip, group
crazy, crowd
true, trip, train

R clusters

3. Str
This one is even harder! Your tongue moves from the ‘s’ sound (behind your teeth, not touching), to the tip of your tongue touching the top of your mouth for the ‘t’ sound, then to the back of your mouth for the ‘r’ sound.
strong, string, straight, strip

strong, string, straight, strip

In the middle of words

1. The ‘ks’ cluster
This can be difficult because of the spelling of words like “success” and “access”. Remember that your tongue goes from the top of your mouth (for the ‘k’ sound) to behind your teeth (for the ‘s’ sound).

Practise the words:
success, access.

Then try the ‘kspl’ cluster. Make sure you don’t omit the ‘k’ sound.

Practise the word “explain”:

success, access, explain

At the end of words

1. Clusters with ‘pt’
These are difficult, because you’re moving from a ‘p’ sound made by your lips, to a ‘t’ sound where your tongue touches the back of your top teeth. Make sure you don’t add an ‘e’ vowel sound between them.

Practise the words:
mapped, swapped, wrapped

You can also try the cluster ‘pts’, where the tongue slides from the ‘t’ sound to the ‘s’ sound.

Practise the words:
attempts, tempts,

Pt clusters

2. Clusters with ‘s’

There are lots of combinations here. For example:

After the first s, the back of the tongue lifts and touches the top of your mouth near your throat to make the ‘k’ sound. Then it drops and moves forward to make the final ‘s’.

Practise with the words:
asks, masks, risks, mosques, tusks

Practise with the words:
asked, masked, risked, frisked

Practise with the words:
mists, tests, dusts, lasts, wrists, tastes

Final ‘s’ clusters

3. Four final consonants
There are a couple of words with four final consonants:
sixths (k, s, th, s)
twelfths (l, f, th, s)
If you find these really difficult to say, you can also omit the ‘th’ sound.

Final consonants

Get An Advanced English Pronunciation In 30 Days!

Find out how to make all the sounds in English, and learn how to speak more clearly. I’ll show you what sounds to focus on for better pronunciation (these often depend on your first language).
Best of all, you can get my personalised help and suggestions for every sound in English!
Click the link below for great English pronunciation!