A retired lawyer, I'm fascinated by words, nuances of meanings & ideas. I’ve always enjoyed reading, languages, & writing, including poetry
What is a Tongue Twister?
A tongue twister is a combination of words designed to be hard to pronounce correctly.
The individual words themselves are usually quite commonplace, and easy to pronounce, but, combined as a set of words, they are surprisingly difficult to say. With quite a bit of practice, they become easier, and the idea is to say the phrases out loud, repeating them until you get it right.
Further down this page you will find various tongue twisters to try. When you read them, your brain makes the phrases look easy to pronounce, but when you actually say them out loud, you're likely to stumble over them at first.
What is the Purpose of Tongue Twisters?
You can use them to help you to improve your speech. In effect, they are speaking agility exercises.
Public speakers use tongue twisters to aid pronunciation, as they are very helpful in increasing verbal agility and improving diction. I remember reciting tongue twisters as a child, in elocution lessons, and they are used in speech training in public speaking for adults, such as actors, lawyers, lecturers, politicians and anyone who has to give company presentations.
Tongue twisters are very useful for people learning English as a second language (ESL students), as it helps them to get their tongues round familiar and unfamiliar words and to be more careful with their pronunciation.
It's Quite Fun to Try Them Out in a Group of People
Funny tongue twisters are a source of great amusement for children and adults alike. They can compete to see who can get to the end without stumbling or hesitating. This is a useful and enjoyable exercise for both children and adults, who might be native English speakers, or using English as a second language (ESL), or teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).
Usually one person puts out a challenge to say the tongue twister as quickly as possible and repeat it several times. Then each person does this in turn, usually until at least one of them can get it right. The results are often funny. Number 9 in the list below always causes a smirk or giggle, because, if you get it wrong, which most people do if they are not careful, it has unintended naughty implications.
I don't know whether there are languages other than English which also have tongue twisters--if you know of any, do add your voice to the Comment section at the end of this article.
The First 3 are Tongue Twisters With the Purpose of Distinguishing Different “S” Sounds:
The tongue finds it quite difficult to move quickly between the sounds “s”, “sh” and “th”. The first tongue twister is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most difficult tongue twister:
1.The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick
These ones are slightly easier:
2. She sells sea shells on the seashore
3. Does this shop stock shot silk socks with spots?
A Tongue Twister Which Helps With the Pronunciation of “R”:
The English “R” is a difficult letter to pronounce--even English people find it difficult, and some English people never do master it. Instead of saying “Rabbit”, they will pronounce it “Vabbit” or “Wabbit”. The Scots never even try--they pronounce “R” gutturally, like most continental languages, whereas the English “R” is actually pronounced at the front of the mouth, not in the throat. Some English people pronounce “R” by rolling their tongues slightly, but usually it is pronounced by using the lips rather than the tongue.
4. Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran the rural races
A Tongue Twister to Help With the Pronunciation of “ai”:
Take the word “pain” – there are various regional differences in the way people pronounce it, from “pen” to “pine” and various intermediate sounds, but if you wish to speak English without a regional accent, you would pronounce it as in “pay” – “payn”.
5. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
You may recall that this phrase was adopted into a song of that title in the musical and film “My Fair Lady”, but, as a tongue twister, it was in use long before that.
Here Are 3 Tongue Twisters to Help With General Verbal Agility:
6. Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather
7. The leith police dismisseth us
8. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Be Careful With the Following Tongue Twister or You May be Called a Rudie:
You'd better say this one very slowly and carefully indeed, and not in front of anyone with a delicate sensibility:
9. I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate
I'm only plucking pheasants
'Cause the pheasant plucker's late.
And, Finally, Here’s a Tongue Twister I Made up Myself:
10. A preponderance of protrusions on a prehistoric man
A protrusion is something which sticks out - it could be nail heads, or, as in the case of the monster below, pointed scales.
Are you frightened????
OK, Just One More, Suggested by a Reader:
11. Betty Botter bought a bit of butter;
“But,” she said, “this butter's bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
I bet you can't say that one without stumbling.
Take This Poll About EnglishTongue Twisters
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Diana Grant
Do Leave a Comment or Question - Nice to Know Who has Visited!
Diana Grant (author) from London on July 20, 2020:
I'm so glad you think they're useful
Janisa from Earth on July 17, 2020:
I occasionally use tongue twisters with my students that have difficulties with English pronunciation (usually it's r, th, or z for some). You included some nice ones in your article, so I may incorporate some of them in a pronunciation lesson with a couple of students soon!
Diana Burrell-Shipton from Hubbard, Ohio, USA on January 06, 2018:
How fun and helpful too !
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on January 03, 2018:
Very funny. I especially liked the pheasant plucker. I wouldn't dare try saying that one too quickly!
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on January 02, 2018:
Diana, these are tricky to say, except for the ones we are most familiar with. Fun group of tongue Twisters. Love your last comment "Nudge-Nudge" -- shades of Monty Python - a family favorite. :)
Misto Babaoglu on January 02, 2018:
Hello Diana and all you others,
I have just find you page. So, i am a new user here. I have got a qouistion for you:
Is that someone HomePage you reccomend me for Learn english? I am in the biggining of learning english.
Diana Grant (author) from London on October 12, 2017:
Hope it wasn't the naughty ones, nudge-nudge!
Scott Andersen on October 09, 2017:
Really fun!! Some of these really tripped me up!
Diana Grant (author) from London on June 06, 2017:
Thanks Mykola, I hope to see some of your articles soon
Nabila from Algeria on April 12, 2017:
I am a big fan of tongue twisters ....
I know some nice ones :
..... How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck would chuck wood ?
..... How many cans can a canner can
if a canner can can cans?
..... She sells shells by the sea shore.
Thanks for sharing ,,, looking for more from you !
Diana Grant (author) from London on April 11, 2017:
Yes, I remember that one too - I've just looked it up and it appears to be an anonymous traditional English rhyme.
David Paul Wagner from Sydney, Australia on April 08, 2017:
I was taught this tongue twister of a poem when I was a child (it is fun to try and say it quickly!):
Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!
po on October 04, 2016:
Gina Welds Hulse from Rockledge, Florida on September 13, 2016:
Here's a development on one you already know, Diana.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.....but Perspicacious Polly Perkins purchased Peter's product to produce a pretty profit.
Thanks for sharing this Hub. I really enjoyed this, and a few others. Fun!
Diana Grant (author) from London on January 09, 2015:
Wish I'd been there!
Mellie on January 08, 2015:
A few years ago I'd have to pay someone for this inotrmafion.
Diana Grant (author) from London on November 03, 2014:
I had fun doing it!
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on September 24, 2014:
Great page about tongue twisters & what an ah, interesting initial photograph! Love it!
Christin Sander from Midwest on August 26, 2014:
I love tongue twisters, they are fun and very useful. There are some in your hub I had never heard before. My little guy is in first grade and still struggles with the R sound. I may teach him some tongue twisters to see if it helps him.
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on January 23, 2013:
I used to practised " Peter Piper" tongue twister when I was in college and I can still recite it even it was very long time ago. It was fun and I learned a lot. English is my third language and it´s sometimes getting weird speaking the 3 languages in one day besides my own dialect. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading it;-)
Dina Blaszczak from Poland on March 05, 2012:
Nice hub! English is a foreign language for me and I found information in this hub interesting and funny.
Voted up, useful and funny.
Simon Cook from NJ, USA on February 15, 2012:
What a fun hub - but also very educational! Didn't realize why tongue twisters were designed!
Nell Rose from England on November 25, 2011:
Hi, I love tongue twisters, my son and I used to spend hours in hysterical laughter trying to read some of them out of his books, I did just try your 'sheik' one, and it has completely defeated me!
Sonia Perozzi from California on November 21, 2011:
Fun article,tongue twisters are great for improving speech and are often part of the warm up process for actors and vocalists.
trecords0 from DeLand, Florida on November 08, 2011:
What a neat hub. I had an idea a long time ago to write an album where the lyrics were tongue twisting riddles. This reminded me about it. Thanks for the compliments and the follow.
TMMason from FL. on July 14, 2011:
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on July 13, 2011:
Fun topic. Thanks for sending it to me.
Diana Grant (author) from London on July 09, 2011:
Thanks, I'll take a look at your stuff
VioletSun from Oregon/ Name: Marie on July 06, 2011:
Intriguing article! Didn't know that tongue twisters can improve speech. Will try it and have fun at the same time.
Welcome to Hubpages! Hope you enjoy the community of friendly hubbers.
Tina from Wv on July 06, 2011:
Very fun topic! Look forward to more!
Diana Grant (author) from London on July 06, 2011:
I have a Stumble toolbar with a "Share" icon, and that comes up with.....wait for it....a photo of you (your Avatar) and your name. Just ticked the box and that was it - first time I've ever used it. Useful for other people to know - Get that StumbleUpon toolbar folks!
Rhonda (Pukeko) on July 06, 2011:
This is really fun. By the way, how did you send it to me through Stumble Upon. It appeared in my tool bar.