The V vs. B and W Sounds

The V sound and how it’s often confused

For many learners of English, the v, b and w sounds prove difficult to distinguish.  Let’s take a look at the v vs. b and w sounds, and how they are each distinct. 

First, to produce the /v/ sound, the upper teeth should touch the lower lip and and vibrate.  

  • For /b/, however, both lips touch and close so that no air escapes until it’s followed by a vowel sound. 
  • For /w/, the lips should be fully rounded and pushed forward. There is no contact between the upper teeth and the bottom lip. 


Practice with these minimal pairs: The V vs B and W Sounds

/b/    vs.   /v/

  • ban           van 
  • bat            vat
  • bury         very
  • bow          vow
  • bolt          volt
  • bowl        vole
  • curb        curve
  • dribble   drivel

/v/ vs. /w/ 

  • Vee         wee
  • Vary       wary
  • Veal        wheel
  • Vent        went 
  • Verse      worse 
  • Vile         while 
  • Vow        wow
  • Vet          wet
  • Vied        wide 

Need help?

To learn more about commonly confused consonant sounds, check out the following articles: 

To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional and experienced English teacher.  The first week is free for you to try it out!  

Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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