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Tongue Twisters

Boytongue
Tongue twisters make a light hearted addition to any classroom or study routine. They can be useful in addressing pronunciation errors almost as easily as working on minimal pairs. (You can find some good minimal pair practice at Manythings.org )
 
Tongue twisters if done alone or with a whole class can bring laughter to any group.
 
Here we have broken tongue twisters into groups to address specific pronunciation difficulties:
 

 
Target a specific difficulty or try something out for fun.
 
Long tongue twisters (more than three lines) can be read and practiced once or twice at a time. Shorter tongue twisters should be read or practiced five times in a row.
 
As you know, we at TesolGames believe very strongly in the value of play and games in learning. Tongue twister games are light hearted, fun, and certain to introduce laughter in any classroom. So here are a few tongue twister games:
 

  • Tongue Twister Relay Race 1
    Make teams. Have teams race as a relay from one side of the class to another, and back. In the middle they must say a short tongue twister five times.
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  • Tongue Twister Relay Race 2
    Make teams. Choose a tongue twister and post it up on the blackboard. Give students practice time. In turn, each team has the first student stand up and say the tongue twister. When that student finishes, the next one stands up and says it, one after another until the whole team has finished. Keep time for each team. The team with the shortest time wins.
  •  

  • Add to an English Scavenger Hunt
    If you use scavenger hunts with your students, include a tongue twister in one of your stations or tasks to be completed.
  •  

  • Tongue Twister Contest
    Give an assortment of five to ten tongue twisters for students to practice over night. Next day, have a timed contest to see who can say them the fastest.
  •  

  • Twisted Emotions
    A fun variation is to have students stand in a circle and have each student in turn say the same tongue twister but using a different emotion. (Happy, sad, angry, frightened, worried, confused, nervous etc.)
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  • Tongue Twister Broken Telephone
    A variation of the game Broken Telephone. Make teams. Line up each team in a line. Give the first student in a team a tongue twister written on a piece of paper. Allow the student time to read an memorize the phrase. They must then return and whisper the phrase into the ear of the next person on their team. Then that student will whisper it in the next student’s ear and so on. The last student to hear the tongue twister must say it loudly for the whole class. The team that is both the fastest and closest to the original tongue twister are the winners.
  •  

  • Tongue Twister Turns
    Write a tongue twister on the board such as, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many peppers did Peter Piper pick? A peck.” Give your students time to memorize the tongue twister. Then, erase the blackboard. Each student in turn is then asked to say one word from the tongue twister. For example, the first student says “Peter” the next, “Piper” then the next “picked” etc. Continue with each student in turn. As a student makes a mistake, they are removed from the game (sits down, leave the group/circle, etc.) and continue with the remaining students. The game is played until only one student is left and they must then say the whole tongue twister on their own.
  •  

  • Tongue Twister Exit Game
    Use tongue twisters as an exit game for your class, allow students that are able to say a tongue twister to leave early, and those that make mistakes go to the end of the line to get a chance to try again.

 
We’re always on the look out for new tongue twisters and try to add them as we find them. If you would like to share others, please let us know and we will add them here.
 
So… on to the tongue twisters!

 

Addressing S/SH pronunciation problems

Theophiles Thistle, the successful thistle-sifter,
In sifting a sieve full of un-sifted thistles,
Thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.
Now… if Theophiles Thistle, the successful thistle-sifter,
In sifting a sieve full of un-sifted thistles,
Thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb,
See that thou, in sifting a sieve full of un-sifted thistles,
Thrust not three thousand thistles through the thick of thy thumb.
Success to the successful thistle-sifter!
 
 
The soldiers shouldered shooters on their shoulders.
 

 
 
Suddenly swerving, seven small swans
Swam silently southward,
Seeing six swift sailboats
Sailing sedately seaward.
 

 
 
Ned Nott was shot
And Sam Shott was not.
So it is better to be Shott
Than Nott.
Some say Nott
Was not shot.
But Shott says
He shot Nott.
Either the shot Shott shot at Nott
Was not shot,
Or
Nott was shot.
If the shot Shott shot shot Nott,
Nott was shot.
But if the shot Shott shot shot Shott,
then Shott was shot,
not Nott.
However,
The shot Shott shot shot not Shott —
But Nott.
 

 
 
The sawingest saw I ever saw saw
Was the saw I saw saw in Arkansas.
 

 
 
What time does the wrist watch strap shop shut?
 
 
Shelter for six sick scenic sightseers
 
 
Cedar shingles should be shaved and saved.
 
 
Preshrunk silk shirts
 
 
Six twin-screwed steel steam cruisers
 
 
Six slippery snails, slid slowly seaward.
 

 
 
Strange strategic statistics
 
 
Sarah sitting in her Chevrolet,
All she does is sits and shifts,
All she does is sits and shifts.
 

 
 
She sifted thistles through her thistle-sifter.
 

 
 
Sarah saw a shot-silk sash shop full of shot-silk sashes as the sunshine shone on the side of the shot-silk sash shop.
 
 
Strict strong stringy Stephen Stretch slickly snared six sickly silky snakes.
 

 
 
Susan shineth shoes and socks
Socks and shoes shines Susan
She ceased shining shoes and socks,
for shoes and socks shock Susan.
 
 
Sixish.
 
 
Swan swam over the sea,
Swim, swan, swim!
Swan swam back again!
Well swum, swan!
 

 
 
Six shimmering sharks sharply striking shins
 
 
Six sharp smart sharks.
 
 
What a shame such a shapely sash
should such shabby stitches show.
 
 
Sure the ship’s shipshape, sir.
 

 
 
Say this sharply, say this sweetly,
Say this shortly, say this softly.
Say this sixteen times in succession.
 
 
Six sticky sucker sticks.
 
 
Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven silly sheep.
The seven silly sheep Silly Sally shooed shilly-shallied south.
These sheep shouldn’t sleep in a shack;
Sheep should sleep in a shed.
 

 
 
Six short slow shepherds.
 
 
Sly Sam slurps Sally’s soup.
 

 
 
Selfish shellfish.
 
 
We surely shall see the sun shine soon.
 

 
 
Six sick slick slim sycamore saplings.
 

 
 
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
But the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
 

 
 
Six thick thistle sticks. Six thick thistles stick.
 
 
Is this your sister’s sixth zither, sir?
 
 
The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.
 

 
 
Pope Sixtus VI’s six texts.
 
 
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.
 
 
She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
 

 
 
Mrs. Smith’s Fish Sauce Shop.
 
 
“Surely Sylvia swims!” shrieked Sammy, surprised, “Someone should show Sylvia some strokes so she shall not sink.”
 
 
Shy Shelly says she shall sew sheets.
 

 
 
Sam’s shop stocks short spotted socks.
 
 
Mr. See owned a saw.
And Mr. Soar owned a seesaw.
Now See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw
Before Soar saw See,
Which made Soar sore.
Had Soar seen See’s saw
Before See sawed Soar’s seesaw,
See’s saw would not have sawed Soar’s seesaw.
So See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw.
But it was sad to see Soar so sore
Just because See’s saw sawed
Soar’s seesaw!
 

 
 
One smart fellow, he felt smart.
Two smart fellows, they felt smart.
Three smart fellows, they all felt smart.
 
 
Knapsack straps.
 

 
 

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Addressing P/B pronunciation problems

Please pay promptly.
 
 
Whereat with blade,
With bloody, blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.
 
 
A bloke’s back bike brake block broke.
 

 
 
A pleasant place to place a plaice is a place where a plaice is pleased to be placed.
 
 
Plague-bearing prairie dogs
 
 
The blue bluebird blinks.
 

 
 
Betty and Bob brought back blue balloons from the big bazaar.
 
 
Betty better butter Brad’s bread.
 

 
 
Peggy Babcock.
 
 
Black bug’s blood
 
 
Brisk brave brigadiers brandished broad bright blades, blunderbusses, and bludgeons… balancing them badly.
 
 
Brad’s big black bath brush broke.
 
 
A box of biscuits, a batch of mixed biscuits
 

 
 
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
 

 
 
Betty Botter had some butter, “But,” she said, “this butter’s bitter. If I bake this bitter butter, it would make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter, that would make my batter better.” So she bought a bit of butter, better than her bitter butter, and she baked it in her batter, and the batter was not bitter. So ’twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.
 

 
 
A big black bug bit a big black bear, made the big black bear bleed blood.
 

 
 
I am not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate. I am only plucking pheasants ’cause the pheasant plucker’s running late.
 
 
A bitter biting bittern
Bit a better brother bittern,
And the bitter better bittern
Bit the bitter biter back.
And the bitter bittern, bitten,
By the better bitten bittern,
Said: “I’m a bitter biter bit, alack!”
 
 
Toy boat.
 
 
The boot black bought the black boot back.
 
 
I cannot bear to see a bear
Bear down upon a hare.
When bare of hair he strips the hare,
Right there I cry, “Forbear!”
 
 
Ruby Rugby’s brother bought and brought her back some rubber baby-buggy bumpers.
 
 
Pick a partner and practice passing, for if you pass proficiently, perhaps you’ll play professionally.
 

 
 
Once upon a barren moor
There dwelt a bear, also a boar.
The bear could not bear the boar.
The boar thought the bear a bore.
At last the bear could bear no more
Of that boar that bored him on the moor,
And so one morn he bored the boar
That boar will bore the bear no more.
 

 
 

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Addressing R/L pronunciation problems

Roberta ran rings around the Roman ruins.
 
 
Rolling red wagons
 
 
I correctly recollect Rebecca MacGregor’s reckoning.
 

 
 
Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry
 

 
 
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.
 

 
 
Lovely lemon liniment.
 
 
Ruby Rugby’s brother bought and brought her back some rubber baby-buggy bumpers.
 
 
Truly rural
 
 
The crow flew over the river with a lump of raw liver.
 
 
Lily ladles little Letty’s lentil soup.
 

 
 
A lusty lady loved a lawyer and longed to lure him from his laboratory.
 

 
 
If you stick a stock of liquor in your locker,
It’s slick to stick a lock upon your stock,
Or some stickler who is slicker
Will stick you of your liquor
If you fail to lock your liquor
With a lock!
 
 
Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran
 

 
 

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Addressing T/D pronunciation problems

Two toads, totally tired.
 
 
A Tudor who tooted a flute
tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to their tutor,
“Is it harder to toot
or to tutor two tooters to toot?”
 

 
 
Toy boat
 
 
Tim, the thin twin tinsmith
 

 
 
Hi-Tech traveling tractor-trailer truck tracker
 
 
A tree toad loved a she-toad
Who lived up in a tree
He was a two-toed tree toad
But a three-toed toad was she
The two-toed tree toad tried to win
The three-toed she-toad’s heart
For the two-toed tree toad loved the ground
That the three-toed tree toad trod
But the two-toed tree toad tried in vain.
He couldn’t please her whim.
From her tree toad bower
With her three-toed power
The she-toad vetoed him
 

 
 
The two twenty-two train tore through the tunnel.
If one doctor doctors another doctor, does the doctor who doctors the doctor doctor the doctor the way the doctor he is doctoring doctors? Or does he doctor the doctor the way the doctor who doctors doctors?
 
 
Two Truckee truckers truculently truckling to have truck to truck two trucks of truck.
 
 
Three twigs twined tightly.
 
 

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Addressing V/W pronunciation problems

Vincent vowed vengeance very vehemently.
 
 
Irish wristwatch.
 

 
 
Give Mr. Snipe’s wife’s knife a swipe.
 
 
Will you, William?
 
 
Who washed Washington’s white woolen underwear when Washington’s washerwoman went west?
 

 
 
Twelve twins twirled twelve twigs.
 

 
 
While we were walking, we were watching window washers wash Washington’s windows with warm washing water.
 
 
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
 
 
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.
 

 
 
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
 

 
 
Which witch wished which wicked wish?
 

 
 
When a twister a-twisting will twist him a twist,
For the twisting of his twist, he three twines doth intwist;
But if one of the twines of the twist do untwist,
The twine that untwisteth untwisteth the twist.
Untwirling the twine that untwisteth between,
He twirls, with his twister, the two in a twine;
Then twice having twisted the twines of the twine,
He twitcheth the twice he had twined in twain.
The twain that in twining before in the twine,
As twines were intwisted he now doth untwine;
Twist the twain inter-twisting a twine more between,
He, twirling his twister, makes a twist of the twine.
 

 
 
One-One was a racehorse. Two-Two was one, too. When One-One won one race, Two-Two won one, too.
 
 

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Addressing F/V F/P pronunciation problems

Four furious friends fought for the phone.
 

 
 
Of all the felt I ever felt
I never felt a piece of felt
Which felt as fine as that felt felt
When first I felt that felt hat’s felt.
 
 
There was a young fisher named Fischer
Who fished for a fish in a fissure.
The fish with a grin,
Pulled the fisherman in;
Now they’re fishing the fissure for Fischer.
 
 
Freshly fried flying fish
 

 
 
Freshly fried fresh flesh
 
 
A flea and a fly flew up in a flue.
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
 
 
Friendly Frank flips fine flapjacks
 

 
 
Fat frogs flying past fast
 

 
 
Flee from fog to fight flu fast!
 

 
 
Fred fed Ted bread, and Ted fed Fred bread.
 

 
 
I am not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate. I am only plucking pheasants ’cause the pheasant plucker’s running late.
 
 

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Addressing Short I/Long E pronunciation problems

Inchworms itching
 

 
 
Cheap ship trip
 

 
 
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.
 

 
 
I need not your needles, they’re needless to me;
For kneading of noodles, ’twere needless, you see;
But did my neat knickers but need to be kneed,
I then should have need of your needles indeed.
 
 

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Addressing G/J pronunciation problems

Gertie’s great-grandma grew aghast at Gertie’s grammar.
 

 
 
Greek grapes.
 

 
 
Three gray geese in the green grass grazing.
Gray were the geese and green was the grass.
 
 

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Addressing Ch/Sh pronunciation problems

Chop shops stock chops.
 
 
If Stu chews shoes, should Stu
choose the shoes he chews?
 

 
 
Shredded Swiss cheese.
 
 

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Addressing T/TH pronunciation problems

She sifted thistles through her thistle-sifter.
 

 
 
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
But the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
 

 
 
Six thick thistle sticks. Six thick thistles stick.
 
 
Is this your sister’s sixth zither, sir?
 
 
Tim, the thin twin tinsmith
 

 
 
I thought a thought. But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought.
 
 
Thieves seize skis.
 

 
 
The Leith police dismisseth us.
 

 
 
Thank the other three brothers of their father’s mother’s brother’s side.
 

 
 
They both, though, have thirty-three thick thimbles to thaw.
 

 
 
They have left the thrift shop, and lost both their theatre tickets and the volume of valuable licenses and coupons for free theatrical frills and thrills.
 

 
 
He thought a bath would be a good thing
 
 
The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.
 
 
There those thousand thinkers were thinking how did the other three thieves go through?
 

 

 
Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.
 
 
Thirty-three thirsty, thundering thoroughbreds thumped Mr. Thurber on Thursday.
 

 
 
Three short sword sheaths.
 

 
 
I thought, I thought of thinking of thanking you.
 
 
Tom threw Tim three thumbtacks.
 
 
Then this mother soothed and bathed the other although the other didn’t want to be together.
 
 
Not these things here but those things there.
 
 
Ruth and Luther’s moose’s loosest tooth is uncouth.
 
 
I can think of six thin things, but I can think of six thick things too.
 

 
 
Room Three Hundred Thirty-Three on the third floor rents for thirty-three dollars and thirty-three cents every third Thursday.
 
 
Three free throws
 

 
 

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Others

Unique New York
 

 
 
A noisy noise annoys an oyster.
 

 
 
The myth of Miss Muffet
 

 
 
My dame hath a lame tame crane, My dame hath a crane that is lame.
 
 
Moose noshing much mush.
 
 
Old oily Ollie oils old oily autos.
 

 
 
Many an anemone sees an enemy anemone.
 
 
Nine nice night nurses nursing nicely.
 

 
 
You’ve no need to light a night-light
On a light night like tonight,
For a night-light’s light’s a slight light,
And tonight’s a night that’s light.
When a night’s light, like tonight’s light,
It is really not quite right
To light night-lights with their slight lights
On a light night like tonight.
 
 
Crisp crusts crackle crunchily.
 

 
 
Give papa a cup of proper coffee in a copper coffee cup.
 

 
 
Don’t pamper damp scamp tramps that camp under ramp lamps.
 

 
 
I thought a thought. But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought.
 
 
Thieves seize skis.
 

 
 
The Leith police dismisseth us.
 

 
 
The seething seas ceaseth and twiceth the seething seas sufficeth us.
 
 
Ed had edited it.
 
 
Give me the gift of a grip top sock: a drip-drape, ship-shape, tip-top sock.
 
 
Pacific Lithograph.
 
 
Good blood, bad blood.
 
 
Quick kiss. Quicker kiss.
 
 
I saw Esau kissing Kate. I saw Esau, he saw me, and she saw I saw Esau.
 
 
Amidst the mists and coldest frosts,
With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
He thrusts his fist against the posts
And still insists he sees the ghosts.
 
 
Listen to the local yokel yodel.
 
 
Are our oars oak?
 

 
 
Can you imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?
 

 
 
The epitome of femininity
 
 
She stood on the balcony inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping, and amicably welcoming him home.
 
 
Kris Kringle carefully crunched on candy canes.
 

 
 
On mules we find two legs behind and two we find before. We stand behind before we find what those behind be for.
 
 
Girl gargoyle, guy gargoyle.
 

 
 
Mix, Miss Mix!
 
 
Just think, that sphinx has a sphincter that stinks!
 
 
Pretty Kitty Creighton had a cotton batten cat.
The cotton batten cat was bitten by a rat.
The kitten that was bitten had a button for an eye,
And biting off the button made the cotton batten fly.
 
 
The ochre ogre ogled the poker.
 

 
 
Thank the other three brothers of their father’s mother’s brother’s side.
 

 
 
They both, though, have thirty-three thick thimbles to thaw.
 

 
 
Cows graze in groves on grass which grows in grooves in groves.
 

 
 
Tragedy strategy.
 
 
They have left the thrift shop, and lost both their theatre tickets and the volume of valuable licenses and coupons for free theatrical frills and thrills.
 

 
 
He thought a bath would be a good thing
 

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Last updated: May 27, 2013 at 22:27 pm

 


 

2 Responses so far.

  1. Patrice says:

    I teach English to Korean students and have found that the “oo” sound can also be difficult to pronounce, particularly after w’s! Do you have any good tongue twisters that work on the “oo” sound found in look/book/woods/could/should? Thanks!

    • Todd Vercoe says:

      A suggestion, not a game/tongue twister exactly but can be added to games and certainly adds humour and fun to an activity. Have your Korean students kiss a pen. What am I talking about? Have a learner hold a pen directly under their nose hanging down as they try to pronounce a “W” word and tell them they must “kiss the pen on the ‘w'”. If you try it once you will see what I mean. It stops the Korean use of “oo” instead of “w” by forcing them to draw their lips forward rather than to the sides. (I taught in Korea over a decade and taught many a student this way.)

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