Home / English Lessons / [t], [d] or [Id]? | “-ed” Past Tense | English Pronunciation Lesson

[t], [d] or [Id]? | “-ed” Past Tense | English Pronunciation Lesson

You may have noticed that in English, past tense verbs with an -ed ending are pronounced in three different ways: 

      • [t]
      • [d] or 
      • [Id].

For example, if I say the past tense verb “walked“, as in, “I walked away,” what is the last sound that you hear in the verb?

      • “Walked” [wakt]

1) The -ed verb ending sounds like a [t], “Walked” [wakt], even though it ends in the letter “d”.

What do you hear when I say:

      • “smelled“, as in, “it smelled bad.”

2) The -ed verb ending sounds like a [d]: “smelled” [smeld]

And when I say, “visited”, as in “I visited New York City”, how did I pronounce  that “-ed” ending?

      • [Id] [vizitid].
3) The -ed verb ending sounds like [ɪd], [vizitid].


This lesson teaches you the three rules that explain the differences in past tense verb “-ed” pronunciation. But don’t be surprised if most Americans can’t explain these rules to you! The truth is, Americans make these changes in sound without even noticing.

Intro | Why the Sound Changes

Place your fingertips on the front of your neck, and pronounce the following words. What do you feel on your fingers when you say the underlined sound?

      • vow | fake (vvv | fff)
      • zebra | snake (zzz | sss)

–> When we pronounce voiced sounds, our vocal chords vibrate when we say those sounds. [v] [z]. Did you feel the vibration? 

–> When we pronounce voiceless sounds, our vocal chords do not vibrate. [f] [s]. No vibration. 

This vibration or lack of vibration then carries forward to the following sound in the word. Therefore, this vibration or lack of vibration explains why we pronounce the past tense of verbs in three voiced or voiceless ways: [t], [d] or [Id].

1) [t] final sound

Verbs ending in voiceless sounds [p, k, θ, f, s, ʃ, tʃ] cause the “-ed” ending to be pronounced as the voiceless [t] (with no vocal chord vibration).

Listen and Repeat

      • [p] “He popped a balloon.” [papt]
      • [k] “They talked a lot” [takt]
      • [θ] “th”: “She frothed a cup of milk” [frawθt]
      • [f] “I laughed at the movie.” [læft]
      • [s] “She kissed a frog.” [kIst]
      • [ʃ] “sh”: “We brushed it off.” [bruʃt]
      • [tʃ] “ch”: “I reached around for it.” [riyt]


2) [d] final sound

Verbs ending in the voiced sounds [b, g, ð, v, z, ʒ, dʒ, m, n, ŋ, r, l] cause the “-ed” ending to be pronounced as a voiced [d].

Listen and Repeat

      • [b] “It bobbed up and down.” [babd]
      • [g] “He begged her to stay.” [bɛgd]
      • [ð] “She breathed loudly.” [briyðd]
      • [v] “They loved it.” [luvd]
      • [z] “We raised her expectations.” [reyzd]
      • [dʒ] “They bridged the gap.” [brId]
      • [m] “I claimed it was mine.” [kleymd]
      • [n] “They banned new members.” [bænd]
      • [ŋ] “She banged into the chair.” [bæŋd]
      • [r] “He cleared it up.” [kliyrd]
      • [l] “I rolled up the paper.” [rowld]


3) [əd] or [ɪd] final sound

Verbs ending in the sounds [t] or [d] will cause the “-ed” ending of a verb to be pronounced as the syllable [əd] or [ɪd].

Listen and Repeat

      • [t] “I visited the Empire State Building.” [vɪzɪtəd]
      • [t] “She edited the research paper.” [ɛdɪtɪd]
      • [d] “We ended the game early.” [ɛndɪd]
      • [d] “He breaded the chicken.” [brɛdɪd]


Why are these rules important?

Connected Speech [c+v]

These “-ed” pronunciation rules are particularly important, because in English we connect our speech when we have a word that:

      • ends in a consonant; and
      • is followed by a word that begins with a vowel.

In this case, the way you say the verb’s “-ed” ending will be heard loudly and clearly.


      • “He walked away”  [walkt] –> “He walk taway” [hiy WAWK təWEY]
Did you hear that [t] in “walked” clearly? 
(See the lesson on Connected Speech & Linking for more practice and explanation).



The same rule of connected speech [c+v] occurs when h-deletion causes us to delete the “h” sound at the beginning of a word.


      • “We raised her expectations” [reyzd] –> “We raizd her expectations” –> “We raizdər expectations”
We deleted the “h” in “her”, then connected the speech from “raised” and “her”, which became “raisder”. 
(Check out the lesson on H-Deletion for more practice and explanation).


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  7. Love this! I’m a native English speaker and I am considering becoming an ESL instructor, but haven’t begun any formal education for it. These are some English rules that I have never considered before in my speaking, and I think this is a really interesting, thorough, and effective lesson. My boyfriend is not a native English-speaker, and was wondering why the past tense of “cut” is “cut,” but I don’t actually know the answer to that. It’s simply one of those things that “just sounds right” to my native ears. Could you explain this exception to the rule?

    • Hi Maddie!

      Great question.

      Many short verbs that end in the [t] sound (or sometimes [d]) and have a relaxed vowel have an irregular past tense. For example, think of the past tense of the verbs: “hit” “hurt” “put” “set” “shut”. See a pattern? Their simple present tense is the same as the past simple and past participle. This may be an example of pronunciation influencing grammar.

      Other times we have variation in English, it usually comes from the word’s etymology — the origin of the word. For example, Latin origin versus Germanic versus French, etc. A good web site to research word etymology is http://www.etymonline.com/

      Good luck if you decide to go to grad school! I have a masters in Applied Linguistics, and obviously, I love language teaching :)

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  11. Thank for some great lesson

  12. Just what I was looking for to explain my students in a simple way! Thx!

  13. Thanks a lot. It was a very helpful lesson!

  14. easy way, easy understanding. thank you.

  15. I found two sound or vowel with [t] such as : “th”: “She frothed a cup of milk” [frawθt]
    and [d] such as: [ð] “She breathed loudly.” [briyðd]
    So both are {th} whats the different between them.

    Thank you

  16. This class was awesome! Thank you!

  17. woow this is great thnx

  18. i think there had to be more because in [ed] only
    4 examples , so fix this please
    but it was really necessary

    • i think there had to be more because in [ed] only
      4 examples , so fix this please
      but it was really necessary
      woow this is great thnx
      I found two sound or vowel with [t] such as : “th”: “She frothed a cup of milk” [frawθt]
      and [d] such as: [ð] “She breathed loudly.” [briyðd]
      So both are {th} whats the different between them.

  19. Very amazing explanations ….
    Feeling more confident

  20. Excellent explanation, I’m really glad for find this site. Well done =D

  21. Thank you for sharing this. However, I’m a little confused with the word “breathed”. Should it not sound as [t] in the end instead of [d]? Hope you can clear this out. Thanks.

  22. Wait give me a second to figure out your reply.

    I think I’m welcome am I right?

  23. Such a great job. Helped me a lot! Congrats!

  24. This is very easy .Thank you . I understood

  25. wonderful……… thanks

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