The best tongue twisters in English

The best tongue twisters in English

by Laura Jones

Updated November 19, 2021

Want to improve your pronunciation? Tongue twisters are a fun way to do this! A good tongue twister is a series of words that are designed to be difficult to say – even for native speakers of the language. They are usually alliterative; this means that most of the tongue twister words start with the same letter or they have the same letters in them.  There are lots of different ones in English and if you really wanted to improve your pronunciation, you could try a new one every day!

You can also use them to target a specific pronunciation problem that you have. Lots of non-native English speakers have a problem with the th sound; many Arabic speakers have a problem with p and b, while Spanish speakers confuse b and v. Whatever your pronunciation problem, there’s a tongue twister for it, so let’s have a look at some of the best.  

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Improve your pronunciation with these 12 English tongue twisters

1. Red lorry, yellow lorry

Try saying this 3 times quickly! If you’re a speaker of an Asian language, you might have some trouble distinguishing r and l sounds, so this one’s for you! 

2. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Peter Piper is a popular tongue twister among children and it’s a really satisfying one to say if you can get it right. The p sound is made by releasing air from your mouth in a ‘puff’ and it’s a soft sound. 

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

This is another good one to practice your p sounds, with the bonus c sound thrown in. 

4. Betty Botter bought some butter

This is a good tongue twister for anyone who has difficulties saying the b sound. This is only the first line of this strange tongue twister/poem, so take a look at the rest of it to have a really good practice. 

5. Betty loves the velvet vest best

Betty again! This is an excellent tongue twister for everyone, especially Spanish speakers, who has trouble with b and v sounds. 

6. The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday

Here’s a good tongue twister for everyone who struggles with the th sound… which is most people who don’t have it in their native language. You might be surprised to learn that this one isn’t very difficult for native speakers… and you might not be surprised to learn that it doesn’t make much sense!

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7. Eleven benevolent elephants

Most tongue twisters practice consonant sounds, as we’ve seen. But here’s one to help you practice a vowel sound too; use this to practice the e and v sounds. 

8. Pick six beaks, seek big peaks

This is another tongue twister you can use to practice a vowel sound: specifically, the long ee and short i which a lot of learners struggle with. 

9. Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie

This English tongue twister, obviously, helps you practice the i, g and m sounds. I find this one quite difficult to say even as an English speaker, so I hope you have better luck than me. 

10. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A woodchuck is better known as a groundhog. But even knowing this, it doesn’t mean that the tongue twister makes much sense. It probably won’t be too difficult to learn this one, and most native speakers will recognise it, so it’s a great one to start with. 

11. She sells seashells on the seashore…

This is probably the best known tongue twister in English and it even ties native speakers up in knots! The sh sound in this one really trips us up. This is only the first line so have a look at the rest of it and practice hard – you’ll impress your English and American friends if you can get through it! 

12. The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick

For the advanced tongue twister lovers out there, this one once made it into the Guiness Book of World Records as being the hardest tongue twister in the world. I can barely get this phrase out, even after a few times practising it! 

How many of these great English tongue twisters can you say already and which ones do you want to practise? 

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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