How do you pronounce sixth time?

For example: Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or for the sixth time.

It's quite difficult to pronounce the /ksθ t/.

Do you skip any sound in /ksθ/ /t/? If so, which one do you skip?

The /sɪk/ part is easy but after that, the /sθ/ and then the /t/ right after /θ/ becomes difficult.

The way I pronounce 'sixth time':

After /sɪk/, the blade of my tongue touches the alveolar ridge and produces /s/, then the tip of my tongue sticks out a bit to produce /θ/ and then it gets pulled back and moves up to the alveolar ridge for producing /t/ and it takes much time and sounds unnatural.

(It's almost impossible to pronounce 'King James sixth's third daughter' (King James VI's daughter). Does anyone know how to pronouncee it?

James /sɪksθs θ/ ird daughter.

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    Classical tongue-twister: The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 13:06
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    Does this answer your question? Why do English people pronounce 'sixth' as 'sicth'? Also see here and here. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 13:15
  • @FumbleFingers, I've read all the previous questions but I didn't find the answer I'm seeking. (I spent 2 hours reading all the questions that have discussed 'th' sound 😐, perhaps my question is weird...) Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 13:19
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    I thought both of John Lawler's Answers as linked to above covered the issue pretty well. But to be honest, I don't really care whether some people can (or think they can) pronounce King James sixth's third daughter the way you think they should. All I know is a lot of people find it hard to accept that they simply cannot distinguish between prints and prince. Well - I think I know that - maybe some people really can enunciate and / or hear a difference, and it's just that I can't. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 15:32
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    I pronounce fixed term and sixth term in the same way, but differently from six term: there's a geminated [t], like in cattail [ˈkæt.teɪl]. (Maybe the geminated [t] is more likely to be dental in sixth term and alveolar in fixed term, but I'm not entirely sure English speakers can tell the difference.) Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (2000 ed.) stipulates that "sixth" is pronounced "/siksθ/" [at least in isolation] but also [as a minotity pronunciation] "/sikstθ/"; "/sikθ/" is considered to be an error. Similarly "sixths" is "/siksθs/"; "/sikstθs/ is acceptable while "/sikθs/" must be rejected as a possibility (for the time present, anyway). A note in this entry for "sixth" and "sixths" reveals that 'in casual speech, both sing. and pl. are "/siks/" or "/sikst/"'.

This prescriptive/descriptive pronunciation indicates then that in order not to depart from RP norms you have to pronounce "sixth time" as


"/siksθ taɪm/" [the "ideal" pronunciation, that is particularly difficult in rapid speech]

or "/sikstθ taɪm/" [which is not in my opinion much help in the way of simplification]

or even "/siks taɪm/" [which is in my opinion too much of a simplification as the grammar disappears entirely]

and "/sikst taɪm/" [which normally should give rise to a geminated /t/]

So, according to this dictionary of RP, you can either add a /t/, suppress the /θ/ or replace it with "/t/".

My impression is that there is no better way to pronounce that and similar constructs than the one you detail precisely (the "ideal" pronunciation), keeping in mind that they should be uttered leisurely and are not at all of the sort of word combinations that can be spoken at the top of your voice for communication to people far away from you, nor to be used in rushed speech; confronted to those situations one must think of saying for instance "tin number six" instead of "sixth tin" or abstain from a reference to order.

Personally, I do not find this pronunciation unnatural but difficult and the idea that it takes much time seems wrong, it must the result of the effect of the long consonant sequence, I think: there is but one single sound added( /θ/).

For "king James sixth's third daughter" the difficulty is greater and I stumbled the first times I tried but found that nevertheless, pronouncing the words without hurry, and keeping them apart, that is, saying them without tying them together and thus preserving their individuality, made this exercice not so forbidding. Strangely enough, the pronunciation of the s of the possessive case appears to be deprived of the usual grammatical meaning that the Saxon genitive communicates without fail when one hears it; it tends to feel like mere sound, however successful is the pronunciation.

Addition due to a comment from user Decapitated Soul (who wished fo his findings to be made part of the present answer)

This user seems to have removed some of the difficulty from the pronunciation of "King James sixth's third daughter" by means of a sequence of speech stages in which the key is an appropriate choice of the two more or less optional positions of the tongue for the pronunciation of /θ/.

"Quite simply, articulate the first /θ/ (in sixth) dentally and the second one interdentally. After pronouncing 'six', the tip of my tongue stays at the alveolar ridge and articulates the /θ/ there at the alveolar ridge then articulates the possessive s at the same place and then sticks out and articulates the second /θ/ interdentally (i.e. tongue tip between top and bottom teeth). I can do it quickly (after practising for one month)."

I have learnt how to pronounce 'King James sixth's third daughter' says he at the beginning of his explanation.

Addition due to a comment from user Mitch

It must be understood that the accent that is the main concern of this dictionary is RP, GenAm being treated too but not as expertly. Words such as "stipulate" do not go further than the particular accent concerned: for instance, if you intend to remain within RP you have to use /hɔ:l/ for the pronunciation of "hall"; if now you think that /hɒ:l/ suits you better, you can choose this prononciation (and you have to use it if you want to have an American accent) but this is not a usual pronunciation in RP. The necessities expressed by the terms I use are no more prescriptivist than that: they are not used to discriminate within a given accent and impose one form rather than another in that accent but they merely indicate that for the given accent there is no other standard.

Unfortunately, I have no link to this dictionary, but I don't mind adding a numerization of that part of it showing these pronunciations.

       enter image description here

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    I'm pretty sure the s rolls into the time - sik stime - in rapid speech. Sloppy perhaps, but the normal way it is said in the US, I think.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 10:41
  • @PhilSweet As a practice found in General American, although perhaps not so much in New England English, it is not surprising; it seems to me that American English on the whole tends to agglomerate words but this has not been characteristic of RP, although changes could be taking place.
    – LPH
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 14:41
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    'stipulates', 'banned', 'have to'? Even the strongest prescriptivists/ESL teachers don't use authoritarian words like that. And copy editors at the New Yorker might use those terms but not about pronunciation. Also, can you give a link to Longman where they mention /sikstθ/ and /sikstθs/? I find it very hard to believe that those are alternatives that they print.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 21:26
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    @Mitch I'll make an addition to my answer; that way I'll communicate more clearly what I can say.
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 12:29
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    1) Are you sure you can't get the link to Longman online? 2) Where is that screenshot taken from? I'd like to check the original source. 3) 'banned' is not a word even prescriptivists use (except maybe in some totalitarian governments and then it's a political action). 'not correct' is sufficient prescriptively, 'non-standard' or 'considered improper' for descriptivists.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 13:43

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