It can be hard to distinguish between the English “W” and “V.” I’ve created some tongue-twisters to help you practice these two sounds.
Really noticing the difference between “W” and “V”
First of all, note that for the “W” sound in English, you do not use your teeth at all. Instead, you pull your lips into a tiny circle, similar to the lip formation you’d use to make the “oo” vowel sound in words like “pool” or “moon.” It’s the English “V” where you do use your teeth. To make the “V” sound in English, you place your upper teeth lightly on the inside of your lower lip and gently blow out air, while using your vocal cords.
It may help to see what these lip formations actually look like, so be sure to check out the Magoosh Comic I drew illustrating the “W” and “V” mouth movements. It may also help to hear what the combined lip and vocal cord movements sound like for each of these sounds. You can listen to the sounds below.
- Me, saying “wwwwwwwwwwwwuh:”
- Me, saying “vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvuh:”
“W” and “V” tongue twisters: minimal pairs
Now that you’ve heard these sounds in clear contrast, let’s practice some tongue twisters that consist entirely of minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that sound almost exactly the same, usually with just one sound difference. These kinds of word pairs are very useful for both pronunciation and listening skills in English. I’ve included an audio file with each minimal pair, so that you can hear the correct pronunciation before trying it yourself. In each audio file, I’ll say the pair slowly one time, and then one time at a normal pace. Practice your pronunciation by repeating after me.
- went, vent
- win, VIN
- Wally, volley
- wick, Vick
- will, ville
- worst, versed
Two full-length tongue twisters with “W” and “V”
Once you’ve gotten the hang of these, you’r ready for a couple of longer tongue-twisters. Again, I’ve included soudn files, so that you can listen to a native English speaker’s pronunciaiton before you practice these on yoru own. I speak fairly slowly in the audio. But to challenge yourself and build your pronunciation skills, try to see how quickly you can say these with correct pronunciation.
- W/V tongue-twister # 1: She had vicious wishes that the worst would happen to the versed men; these vicious wishes made the versed men very wary that the worst could happen.
- W/V tongue twister # 2: We went to Wally’s volleyball event under the village’s wilted willow, with victory in mind. Wally would win the volley versus Vinny.