The key to mastering clear, articulate speech often lies in the details. One pronunciation detail that is often tricky is how to pronounce the plural “s” ending. This is because it can be pronounced three different ways. While these differences may be difficult to master, there are rules that can help you learn to use which pronunciation in which word. 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!
What are the different pronunciations of the plural “s”?
The three pronunciations for “-s” endings are:
- /s/ a “s” sound, such as in the word miss
- /z/ a “z” sound, such as in the word buzz
- /ǝz/ a separate syllable, which sounds much like the word “is”
How do I know when to use which sound?
When pronouncing the plural “s”, the pronunciation depends on the sounds in the word that come directly before the “-s”. We’ll go through each of the three pronunciations below:
The plural is pronounced with an “s” sound (like in the word “miss”) when the root word ends in any of the following sounds:
- /t/ as in “cat”
- /k/ as in “lake”
- /p/ as in “cap”
- voiceless /th/ as in “path”
The plural is pronounced with a “z” sound (like in the word “buzz”) when the root word ends in any of the following sounds:
- /d/ as in “head”
- /g/ as in “bag”
- /b/ as in “crab”
- /v/ as in “cave”
- /n/ as in “pin”
- /m/ as in “home”
- /ng/ as in “ring”
- /j/ as in “badge”
- /r/ as in “car”
- /l/ as in “bill”
- any vowel sound
Finally, the plural is pronounced with an “iz” sound, a separate syllable, which sounds much like the word “is”, after the following sounds:
- /s/ as in “class”
- /zh/ as in “garage”
- /sh/ as in “bush”
- /ch/ as in “patch”
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