Some consonants are voiced; they are formed with vibration in the vocal chords, and no push of air. Voiced consonants are: /b/ /d/ /g/ /j/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /r/ /v/ /w/ /y/ and /z/. All vowels are voiced too.
Some consonants are unvoiced; they make no vibration in the vocal chords, but there is a push of air. Unvoiced consonants are: /f/ /h/ /k/ /p/ /s/ /t/ /x/ /qu/ and digraphs /ch/ /sh/. The digraph /th/ can be voiced as in “that” or unvoiced as in “thing.”
Some word pairs compare voiced and unvoiced consonants (at the beginning) that are made with the same mouth placement of tongue, lips, and teeth. Try putting a hand on the throat to feel the difference while saying these words: bat/pat, dip/tip, gab/cab, van/fan, zip/sip, and jug/chug.
Also try these that are not made with the same mouth placement, but one word begins with a voiced consonant and the other is unvoiced: jog/hog, lit/kit, mat/hat, nut/hut, and rat/pat.
It is easier to learn consonants that are voiced, but understanding the difference becomes especially important in the following two instances.
The letter s can make different sounds, depending on whether it follows a voiced or unvoiced consonant. After an unvoiced consonant, often s = /s/. After a voiced consonant, often s = /z/.
The suffix -ed can make different sounds, depending on whether it follows a voiced or unvoiced consonant. After a voiced consonant, it often makes the sound of /d/ as in “jailed.” After an unvoiced consonant, it often makes the sound of /t/ as in “walked.” A third sound, /id/ is made after the voiced consonant d as in “needed” and the unvoiced consonant t as in “wanted.”
Can you hear the three different sounds made by the suffix -ed in the following sentence?
The sheriff needed his gun. He jailed the wanted man and then he walked home.
A set of resources for with handouts and worksheets for voiced and unvoiced consonants is available at the Super Tutor Tools store at Teachers Pay Teachers.