There are 3 different ways to pronounce the final -ed sound of regular past tense verbs.
- The /t/ sound (unvoiced) as in watched, worked, washed, hoped, relaxed, liked
- The /d/ sound (voiced) as in called, amused, played, planned, named, loved
- The /ɪd/ sound (extra syllable) as in started, wanted, needed, wasted, decided, illustrated
Voiced means that when you make the sound, you can feel a vibration in your throat. Place your hand on the front of your neck. If you say, “Mmmmm….” you will feel a vibration in your throat.
Unvoiced means that when you make the sound, you can’t feel a vibration in your throat. Place your hand on the front of your neck. If you say, “Sshhhh…” you will not feel a vibration in your throat.
For many English learners whose first language is syllable-timed (unlike English, which is stress-timed), a common pronunciation mistake is to add an extra syllable to regular past tense verbs.
While it will take some practice to improve your pronunciation, the first step is to learn the rules.
Rule 1: If the final sound of the base verb (watch, work, wash, hope, relax, like) is unvoiced, the pronunciation of the final -ed is also unvoiced /t/. Some voiceless consonants include: f, k, p, sh, ch, s, x
Rule 2: If the final sound of the base verb (call, amuse, play, plan, name, love) is voiced, the pronunciation of the final -ed is also voiced /d/. Some voiced consonants include: b, g, j, l, m, n, r, v, z
Rule 3: Only add an extra syllable to words that end in t, d, te, de
*All vowel (a, e, i, o, u) sounds are voiced.
Although I have given you some common voiceless and voiced consonants, be careful. Except for in Rule 3, it is the sound, not the letter, that determines whether the -ed will be voiced or unvoiced.
Like and love both end in e, but one is unvoiced and one is voiced.
Final -ed Pronunciation
Test your knowledge of the final -ed pronunciation.
For each word you see, choose /t/, /d/, or /Id/.
Exceptions to the -ed pronunciation rules
In English, there are always exceptions. Certain words break the rules when used as adjectives. This is a basic lesson, so we are not going to explore exceptions now. They are not common. Most of the time, the rules above will apply.
*Head over to the English Club if you are curious and want to read about the exceptions!
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Additional Resources for Final -ED pronunciation
The short video below by Espresso English provides a clear and helpful explanation: How to Pronounce -ED in English Verbs
Rob from Woodward English explains voiced and voiceless well in this video: ED pronunciation in English – How to pronounce ED endings
If you want a bit more practice, here is one more video: -ED ending Pronunciation
Watching all the videos above should help you understand the pronunciation of the final -ed.
It can take time to improve your pronunciation, especially if this error has fossilized (become a habit), but the first step is awareness. You might still add an extra syllable unconsciously to some words, but with targeted practice, your pronunciation will improve.
Here is another online quiz by Woodward English to test your knowledge.
Are you looking for a pronunciation course?
If you want to improve your pronunciation, I recommend Espresso English’s pronunciation and shadowing courses.
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