When we change regular verbs to the past tense (both past simple and past participle) we add -ed to the base form of the verb. For spellings of regular past tense verbs, click here. There are 3 different ways that we pronounce ‘ed’ endings and they are [d], [t] and [id].
The reason why the English language has 3 different pronunciations of the ‘ed’ ending is because some words end in a voiced sound and some are unvoiced. Voiced sounds cause your vocal chords to vibrate and this vibration or lack of vibration carries forward onto the next sound.
This blog post will explain to you the pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings in the English language.
To begin with, it is important to remember that the pronunciation of the ‘ed’ ending in English depends on the sound of the previous word, not the actual spelling of the word. For example, although the word ‘fox’ ends with the letter ‘x’, it actually ends with the /s/ sound. Therefore, we must apply the rule associated with making the unvoiced /s/ sound.
As explained above, there are 3 different sounds for the -ed ending.
1. /id/ sound.
You use the /id/ sound after voiced -d and an unvoiced -t sound.
For example, needed, waited, decided, repeated.
The man needed a glass of water.
He waited for 20 minutes for the bus to arrive.
We decided to go for lunch.
The teacher repeated the words slowly.
2. /t/ sound.
You use the /t/ sound after unvoiced sounds: -p, -k, -f, -s, -ch, -sh, -x, θ (th).
For example, helped, walked, stuffed, missed, watched, washed, mixed, frothed.
He helped the lady cross the road.
She walked to school.
The young boy stuffed himself with candy!
The students missed their exam.
They watched TV all day.
The cleaner washed the floor this morning.
The chef mixed the ingredients in a bowl.
3. /d/ sound.
You use the /d/ sound after vowels and other voiced sounds: -b, -g, -j, -m, -n, -l, -r, -th, -v, -z, -w, ð (th), dʒ (dg).
For example, bombed, begged, performed, returned, called, coloured, breathed, loved, sneezed, snowed, stayed, breathed, bridged.
The boy begged for money.
The actor performed well.
I returned the clothes this morning.
The hospital called the boy’s parents.
I stayed at home during the storm.
She breathed heavily after playing football.
These rules apply to verbs that use the ‘ed’ ending. Where you use the same word as an adjective, they would be pronounced with the /id/ sound. The following words are pronounced with the /id/ sound when used as adjectives.
- Aged – The aged man was tired.
- Blessed – The blessed cat stole my shoe!
- Crooked – The crooked staircase.
- Dogged – He had a dogged persistence about him.
- Learned – The learned professor.
- Naked – The naked man was arrested.
- Ragged – The ragged old cloth.
- Wicked – The wicked witch.
- Wretched – The wretched car won’t start.
But where these words are verbs, the rules outline above would apply. For example:
- Aged – The man aged quickly.
- Blessed – The pope blessed the church.
- Wretched – I wretched all morning.
- Learned – He learned to say that at school.
Why so important?
Pronunciation in any language is important, it can mean the difference between being understood or not. The [id] sound is very different from the [t] and [d] sounds and might lead to confusion if not spoken clearly.
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