Teaching the /b/ or /p/ Sounds

A Bilabial Plosive in English is either /b/ or /p/ sound used at the beginning of a word as in boy or toy. Or, indeed bilabial and plosive.

Some more minimal pairs with b and p include:

bat – pat
bail – pale
bar – par
big – pig
billow – pillow
belt – pelt

These sounds can often cause pronunciation problems for learners of English as they are similar and difficult to differentiate between. There is a notable problem here for Arabic speakers where the sound /p/ does not exist at all in their mother-tongue.

However, it is possible to teach your students the difference between these two sounds using minimal pairs and also a piece of tissue paper.


In phonetics, bilabial means using both lips and plosive means to explode. In other words, the lips are closed blocking the expulsion of air from the mouth; the lips are then opened and the air rushes out.

Bilabial Plosive Video

There are many videos that are a short explanation of one method to teach the difference between the /b/ and /p/ sounds to your class.

It offers simple instructions which allow students to not only hear the difference but also see the difference. It begins looking at minimal pairs and then demonstrates how sound flows out of the mouth using a tissue paper to offer strong visual evidence.

Useful Links

Pronunciation in English – talking about pronunciation in general in English

Did you know that if you subscribe to our website, you will receive email notifications whenever content changes or new content is added.
1. Enter your e-mail address below and click the Sign Me Up button.
2. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your intention of subscribing to our site.
3. Click the link in the email to confirm. That’s all there is to it!

Enter your email address below to subscribe to IWeb TEFL.

Note: if you wish to unsubscribe from our site, click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email you received.
Then indicate you no longer wish to receive our emails.

Thank You
IWeb TEFL Team

Posted in Language Skills.

Leave a Reply