Pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings
What’s the correct pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings on past forms of regular verbs? This is an area that causes many problems for students, and it’s a very important aspect of pronunciation.
These ‘ed’ endings form the past simple and past participle of all regular verbs. And in any oral exam from A2 level onwards, you’ll have to talk about the past. Many of the questions in the Aptis Speaking Test are about your past experiences.
You also need to describe pictures and situations, and many adjectives also end in ‘ed’. So it’s worth spending some time practising how to pronounce these endings.
The temptation for most students is to always pronounce every syllable. For example, to say /lʊkɪd/ instead of /lʊkt/. We use phonemes* to represent sounds. We write them between these diagonal lines called /slashes/.
So how do you know what the pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings is? Is it /t/, /d/ or /ɪd/?
Fortunately there are rules to help with this! Read the explanation in the table below and study the examples. Say the words out loud, don’t just read silently. Try to really hear and enunciate the different endings. Put your fingers lightly on your throat, and try to feel a vibration with some sounds.
* To find out more about phonemes, sound and pronunciation, go to the fantastic OUP phonemic chart.
PRONUNCIATION OF ‘ed’ ENDINGS
There are three ways to pronounce the ‘ed’ endings on the past forms of regular verbs. The pronunciation depends on the final sound – not letter – of the verb in the infinitive. For example, divorce ends in an ‘e’, but the final sound is ‘s’.
Put your fingers lightly on your throat, and first read and say the columns of infinitives: divorce, kiss, wash, watch, etc. Listen to the end sound. In the column (/t/), there’s no vibration. Do the same for each column.
The verb marry ends in the long vowel sound /i:/, like the double ‘e’ in free. When you say /i:/, you feel a vibration. In fact, all vowel sounds are voiced; they vibrate when you say them. In the column (/d/), there is a vibration.
Now listen to the recordings and repeat the past ‘ed’ endings after the speaker.
if the infinitive ends in
the sound /t/ or /d/
divorce – divorced /t/
kiss – kissed /t/
wash – washed /t/
watch – watched /t/
work – worked /t/
stop – stopped /t/
surf – surfed /t/
laugh /la:f/ laughed /t/
marry – married /d/
seem – seemed /d/
stay – stayed /d/
arrive – arrived /d/
listen – listened /d/
change – changed /d/
rob – robbed /d/
buzz – buzzed /d/
separate separated /ɪd/
need – needed /ɪd/
decide – decided /ɪd/
want – wanted /ɪd/
intend – intended /ɪd/
lift – lifted /ɪd/
test – tested /ɪd/
adapt – adapted /ɪd/
Now do this exercise on the pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings
Based on the examples above, try to decide what endings these verbs have in the past form. Is it /t/, /d/ or /ɪd/? (Answers at the bottom of the page.)
look, jump, land, play, add, push, mend, hate, fill, miss, believe, avoid, drop, visit, snow, like, love, crowd, dance, walk, record, rain, study, hug, cough /kɒf/, pull, end
Don’t forget to put your fingers lightly on your throat, and try to feel when there’s a vibration.
Remember this rule!
The most important of these three rules is the last column. If you can remember that the pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings is only /ɪd/ when the last sound (not letter) of the infinitive is already /t/ or /d/, your pronunciation will improve a lot!
Try to fix an example of each ‘ed’ ending in your mind. For example, did you notice that the three adjectives we use to describe marital status each have a different pronunciation? Look:
divorced /t/, married /d/, separated /ɪd/
So if you remember those three words, it will help you remember the rules!
Make sure you also practise your ‘s’ endings.
And for more pronunciation practice, we recommend the excellent ‘English in Use’ series.
Answers to the pronunciation of ‘ed’ endings practice: