Have you noticed that there are different ways to pronounce “-ed” at the end of an English verb? How to you know which one to use?

The answer is surprisingly simple: Just check the sound before the “-ed”. Is it voiced or voiceless? Once you understand the difference between these two types of sounds, you can figure out the correct pronunciation of “-ed” every time.

Related post: Three ways to pronounce a final s in English

Voiced and voiceless sounds

Voiced sounds

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Vocal cords (image via Linguistics Guide)

A voiced sound in English is made by using the vocal cords, which are inside the neck and vibrate when we speak. To feel how the vocal cords work, put your fingertips on your throat and say “aah”. You can feel your vocal cords vibrating because you are making a voiced sound.

 

All vowel sounds are voiced. Voiced consonant sounds are in the table below. Touch your throat again and feel your vocal cords vibrate as you pronounce them.

/b/
big
/d/
dog
/g/ give
/v/ very
/ð/ them
/z/
zoo
/ʒ/
pleasure
/dʒ/
job
/m/
may
/n/
now
/ŋ/
ring
/l/
lip
/r/
rock
/w/
will
/y/
you

Voiceless sounds

Voiceless sounds in English do not use the vocal cords. You cannot feel your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them. Instead, they are produced by controlling the air flowing out your mouth. Place your hand in front of your mouth and pronounce the /p/ sound. You will feel air coming out of your mouth as you make the sound.

Try pronouncing all of the voiceless sounds in the table below. You should be able to feel air coming out of your mouth as you make these sounds. However, if you touch your throat, you should not feel any vibration from these sounds.

/p/
pit
/t/
top
/k/ kit
/f/ fall
/θ/ thin
/s/
sit
/ʃ/
show
/tʃ/
chop
/h/
hi

Pronouncing “-ed”

After a voiced sound

If a voiced sounds comes before the “-ed”, then the “-ed” is pronounced as /d/. The /d/ is a voiced sound, and it follows other voiced sounds.

  • close /klowz/ –> closed /klowzd/
  • pull /pʊl/ –> pulled /pʊld/
  • name /neym/ –> named /neymd/

After a voiceless sound

If a voiceless sound comes before the “-ed”, then the “-ed” is pronounced as /t/. Remember, /t/ is a voiceless sound. It follows other voiceless sounds.

  • hop /hɔp/ –> hopped /hɔpt/
  • pass /pæs/ –> passed(/pæst/
  • like /layk/ –> liked /laykt/

After /t/ or /d/

If a /t/ or /d/ sound comes before the “-ed”, then the “-ed” adds a syllable to the word. This syllable is pronounced /Əd/. The schwa (/Ə/) is an unstressed vowel sound. When “-ed” creates a new syllable, this syllable is unstressed.

  • bat /bæt/ –> batted /’bæt Əd/
  • add /æd/ –> added /’æd Əd/
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