I want to know how to pronounce words that end in consonant clusters such as '-nds' (e.g. sounds), '-th' (e.g. fifth, sixth), and 'ths' (e.g. clothes).

  • You can find audio files and phonetic transcriptions of almost any word here: www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/ The case of fifth is interesting, because it can be pronounced either as [fɪfθ] or as [fɪθ]. Oct 19, 2014 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


English speakers regularly simplify certain clusters in English. This is usually not random, but relies on various rules in the language. In particular:

  1. the cluster /ndz/ as found in sounds, finds, pounds, friends, grinds and so forth can be reduced to /nz/:
    • /saʊnz, faɪnz, paʊnz, frenz, graɪnz/

Clusters with the 'th' sounds /θ/ or /ð/ very often get reduced at the ends of words too. For example, fifth is often pronounced /fɪθ/ and sixth /sɪkθ/. The word clothes is more often than not pronounced the same as close (meaning shut): /kləʊz/.

  • It's a well-known fact (although one that many native English speakers refuse to believe at first) that there is usually no difference between prince and prints – /ns/ and /nts/ – in English pronunciation. The clusters /nz/ and /ndz/ are the voiced analogs of these, and the difference between fines and finds is quite small, if it exists at all. Oct 20, 2014 at 20:34
  • @PeterShor Yes, in fact there's no difference if there's alvelor elosion of /d/ between fines and finds - but the very interesting prince, prints thing doesn't really happen because of elision - it's the other way round it's the epenthesis of /t/ into prince that makes them the same. The /n/ in /ndz/ is a bit of a red herring btw, the only requirement there is that that sound is voiced ... I wrote a proper description here alveolar plosive elision! Oct 21, 2014 at 0:34
  • @PeterShor It's interesting that we never believe stuff about phonetics/phonology till we really start studying and listening ... It doesn't really work that way with grammar for instance! Oct 21, 2014 at 0:35

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