It seems difficult to pronounce the th sound from "the" after the s sound from "that's"

So my question is: Is it ok to omit the s sound? (see below)

"That the thing"

  • 2
    A text-to-speech tool like this one may be helpful, so you can hear (what sounds like) a native speaker saying the phrase over and over at various speeds. I just tried it and indeed the 's' sound is clearly present. Also, as with any skill, practice makes perfect!
    – Era
    Feb 17, 2016 at 20:55
  • 1
    It seems difficult -- yes. That is correct. However, native speakers will perform the task, even though the task is difficult. This does require that the speaker slow down, quite possibly even pausing (very briefly) between the words so that the sounds are stated correctly.
    – TOOGAM
    Feb 18, 2016 at 0:43
  • Check out Forvo for native speakers of many languages pronouncing phrases. You can hear both an American and a Brit pronouncing that's that, which contains the same sound situation you ask about. The th is fully pronounced in both words. Feb 18, 2016 at 4:12
  • As a sort of workaround, you could also pronounce it "That's uh thing". In context, proficient/native speakers will interpret it as "That's the thing", and some may not even notice
    – FeifanZ
    Feb 18, 2016 at 17:54

6 Answers 6


Not really, no. A native speaker wouldn't drop the 's', and it would sound wrong. If you have trouble pronouncing the sounds together, I suggest slowing down and leaving a little bit of space between "that's" and "the" to give yourself a chance to get things right.

  • 1
    Also, I'd suggest to put additional stress on "that"
    – leonbloy
    Feb 18, 2016 at 2:37

A lot of non-native speakers have trouble pronouncing th. If it comes out sounding more like a d, it will probably be OK — you'll just sound like you have a foreign accent.

However, if you omit the 's sound, then you will effectively have dropped the verb from the sentence, and it's going to sound like pidgin or broken English. If you have difficulty with the consonant cluster, perhaps you would be better off not using the contraction, and saying "That is the thing" instead.

  • I'd say for me, the 'the' comes out more like the word 'a', as in 'that's a thing', or even 'thasa thing'. But it probably depends on dialect. Feb 18, 2016 at 0:24

All the sounds in That's the thing are mandatory. In IPA the sounds are written like this: /ðæts.ðə.θɪŋ/. The hardest part is the bold in that's the thing: /ðæts.ðə.θɪŋ/. This is because there is no vowel sound between /s/ and /ð/.

  • The tongue touches the gum just behind the top teeth and blocks the airflow
  • The tongue moves just enough to make a gap, releasing the air without using the vocal cords and /t/ is sounded
  • The tongue stays where it is and makes a hissing sound as more air passes through the gap without using the vocal cords to make the /s/ sound
  • The tongue slides down the back of the teeth, blocking the airflow until it slightly protrudes past the teeth (1 or 2 mm)
  • The air can flow again, and another hissing sound is produced using the vocal cords, this time /ð/ because the tongue is in a different position

When I do this extremely slowly there is a gap between /s/ and /ð/. However, when speaking at a natural speed I don't notice any gap, although there probably is one.

The two th sounds, /ð/ and /θ/, in English are not often found in other languages. They will take practice to a) sound correct and b) feel natural to you. By repeating the correct motions slowly at first you can gradually get used to how it feels, and get your muscles used to moving that way too.


Hobbs' answer is very good but consider why you do not drop the 's':

Grammatically, the apostrophe (') tells you the word is a composite statement. For Proper English would read "That is the thing!", which is why English speakers say "That's..." at all.

So when people say it is mandatory, that's because (see what I did there?) it helps make the sentence understandable with a verb (that cannot be used as a verb). Remember, English may be weird, but we do have our rules. :D

'That' is a pronoun describing the main object ('thing'), 'is' the verb, and 'thing' the subject of the sentence.

Lastly, keep trying!


As a native speaker, I'd pronounce it something like "That's duh thing", with the middle syllable (the "duh") fairly short, leading into "thing".


No. If you use this phrase the 's' is absolutely mandatory.

The phrase itself, on the other hand, is unusual enough (to me it sounds like 1930s Britspeak - I haven't heard anyone use it in thirty years) that you could simply use a different phrase meaning the same thing.


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