I'm a native Arabic speaker -Egyptian- we don't have the V & P sounds natively, I'm fully capable of pronouncing the V sound & telling the difference between it & the F sound perfectly, but I struggle with P, I don't know if I'm pronouncing it as B or not & I struggle with telling the difference between the two even though I know it, both are a bobbing sound caused by the release of air build up, with the difference being that the B one is voiced, this is the exact difference between F & V with the V being voiced, but they both feel so short and exactly the same, for example Pat vs Bat, isn't the a kind of voiced, all I hear is the bob sound followed by a voiced a then the T sound, I feel that the bob is stronger in P, is this the only difference or am I missing something?

Is there any words in which the difference is more prominent, & is there a way to pronounce P correctly even if I can't tell the difference?

by the way I can in most cases guess correctly if a word -even if it's the first time hearing it- is written with P or B but I can't pinpoint the difference in hearing

  • This is often the hard part in listening and speaking a new language: sounds that do not exist in your own language. I have no trouble hearing P and B. But I am sure there are things in Arabic that would be hard for me to hear.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:42
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    In American English, /p/ is usually undistinguishable from /b/ except when it begins a stressed syllable, when it is aspirated. Pin is [pʰɪn], very different from bin [bɪn]; but with spin, stop, staple, for instance, you can use either [p] or [b]. If the P is spelled double, then you need to devoice: happy doesn't sound right with a [b]. If you hold it longer, you have more time to devoice it. Don't aspirate it unless it starts a stressed syllable, like press. Aug 16, 2020 at 1:42
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    Think of the "pop" sound -- a sudden release of air. This (obviously) goes with "p" -- the "b" sound is more restrained. But associated with this are some very subtle motions of the lips and tongue which differ between the two sounds.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:44
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    @JohnLawler Do you have a staple–stable merger then? :)
    – tchrist
    Aug 16, 2020 at 2:02
  • I can distinguish them if I need to, but normally I don't. Any more than I need to distinguish bear, bare, and bear. Aug 16, 2020 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


I can feel for you and your difficulties. It is the ventriloquist with his alphabet of frozen lipped vocabulary that substitutes 'D' and 'T' for both 'P' and 'B'. It is only the context and words used that trick the ear into hearing the expected consonant. The only cure will be to expose yourself to the brunt of the language you wish to adapt to. For this I can recommend Python, Monty at length; http://montypython.50webs.com/scripts/Series_3/45.htm This routine is about an Englishman who adapts to his own difficulties.

  • That transcription is bit off from the recording I have...
    – Jim
    Aug 16, 2020 at 7:36
  • @Jim It is also off from the book I have of all their scripts. Many versions are about. Tis pity we have only TV from the 70s to parse and argue. Much better remains of Shakespeare and his environs.
    – Elliot
    Aug 17, 2020 at 4:45

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