You may have noticed that in English, past tense verbs with an -ed ending are pronounced in three different ways:
- [d] or
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].
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.” [riytʃt]
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.” [brIdʒd]
- [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]
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”
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