The key to mastering clear, articulate speech often lies in the details. One pronunciation detail that is often tricky, particularly for non-native English speakers, is how to pronounce the past-test -ed ending. This is because even though it’s written the same way, the past tense can be pronounced three different ways. Check out our guide to pronouncing the past-tense the right way. Below you’ll find a description of the three different ways that the past-tense –ed can be pronounced and when to use each one.
While this articulation detail can be particularly difficult for non-native English speakers, dropping word endings is a common pronunciation pitfall for native speakers as well. So whether you’re trying to master the American English accent or simply want to brush up on your clarity to project professionalism and confidence, read on!
The three pronunciations of the past-tense –ed ending:
A “d” sound, such as at the end of the word “bed”
This sound is used when the root verb ends in any voiced sound that isn’t /d/ (e.g., /b/, /m/, /g/, /n/, /l/, /r/, /v/, /z/, or any vowel). This sound is added on to the last consonant or vowel without inserting any extra sounds in between. A common pronunciation error for non-native speakers is to pronounce the /d/ as separate syllable by putting a “schwa” vowel before it (e.g. pronouncing “planned” as plan-id).
Examples: robbed, played, explained, called
A “t” sound, such as at the end of the word “not”
This sound is used when the root verb ends in any voiceless sound that isn’t /t/ (e.g., /p/, /k/, /f/, /s/). Like the “d” sound, “t” is added on to the last consonant without inserting any extra sounds in between.
Examples: walked, helped, touched, laughed
A separate syllable which sounds like the “-id” portion of the word “kid”
This version of the past-tense is pronounced as a full extra syllable added onto the root word. Although non-native speakers of English often default to this pronunciation, this sound is ONLY used when the root word ends in /t/ or /d/.
Examples: needed, wanted, greeted, added
Want a more detailed description with more examples of these and other American English sounds? Order our workbook, Talking Business: When English Is Your Second Language today!
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