Pronouncing -ed endings
After your students learn about the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants, now it’s time to teach them how to put that knowledge into practical use and improve their pronunciation.
Why should we focus on the pronunciation of -ed endings?
Commonly, ESL students mispronounce -ed endings. The reason behind the common mispronunciation is that the ‘ed’ suffix is used as a grammatical marker, not a pronunciation one.
To know how to pronounce an -ed ending correctly, you have to look at the sound that precedes it. If the sound (as opposed to the letter) that precedes it is voiced, then the -ed ending should be pronounced as a /d/ sound. If the sound that precedes it is unvoiced, then the -ed ending should be pronounced as a /t/ sound.
Voiced = Vocal Chord Vibration
Unvoiced = No Vocal Chord Vibration
For example, let’s take the words jogged and walked. The sound that precedes the -ed ending in the word ‘jogged’ is a /g/, which is voiced. Therefore, the -ed ending is pronounced as a /d/.
In the word ‘walked’, the /k/ sound (which is (-) unvoiced) precedes the -ed ending; therefore, the -ed ending is pronounced as a /t/ sound.
The following charts demonstrate all the consonant sounds in English and which ones are voiced (+) and unvoiced (-). For more details see Consonant Sounds: Overview.
What if the sound preceding the -ed is a vowel sound? Remember, ALL vowel sounds are voiced (+), so should all -ed endings proceeding a vowel sound be pronounced like a /t/ or a /d/? Take some time to think about it….
Yes, you guessed it, like a /d/.
Exception to the Rule
If you look at the above chart you will notice that the sound /t/ is unvoiced and the sound of /d/ is voiced. So following the rule, then in the word ‘visited’ the -ed ending should be pronounced as /t/ because the /t/ sound is unvoiced, right? Likewise, in the word ‘decided’, the -ed ending should be pronounced as a /d/ sound because /d/ is voiced, right?
However, here marks the exception to the rule. It would be quite awkward to pronounce two /t/ or two /d/ sounds one after another with no vowel sound in-between. Therefore, to facilitate pronunciation the short /ɪ/ sound (that is present in words such as: bit, sit, and kit) is added, and because ALL vowel sounds in English are voiced, the sound that proceeds the /ɪ/ is a /d/ and not a /t/. So, all -ed endings that are preceded by a /t/ OR a /d/ will be pronounced as /ɪd/.
Based on the previous explanation, put (+), (-), and (/t/ or /d/) in the correct blank:
[(+) = voiced sound & (-) = unvoiced sound]
_-ed = /d/
_-ed = /t/
_-ed = /ɪd/
(+)-ed = /d/
(-)-ed = /t/
(/t/ or /d/)-ed = /ɪd/
|Sound Preceding -ed Ending||How the -ed Ending is Pronounced|
|(+) Voiced Sound||/d/|
|(-) Unvoiced Sound||/t/|
|(EXCEPTION) Either a /t/ or /d/ Sound||/ɪd/|
After learning the rule, time to put your knowledge to practice. Here’s a simple activity that you can do, and one that you can give to your students: identify how the -ed ending is pronounced with the following list of words.
Which –ed endings are pronounced like /t/, /d/ or /ɪd/?
Determined: _______ Explored: _________ Looked: _________
Watched: _________ Collaborate: ___________ Jumped: _________
Waited: ___________ Reacted: __________ Grieved: _________
(Make sure you try and figure out the answers yourself before scrolling down below)
When choosing your own list of words, you can give them words with -ed endings that are related to the lesson, unit, or ones relating to the associated grammar point that you are teaching.
Determined: /d/ Explored: /d/ Looked: /t/ Enjoyed: /d/
Watched: /t/ Collaborated: /ɪd/ Jumped: /t/ Paid: /d/
Waited: /ɪd/ Reacted: /ɪd/ Grieved: /d/ Cried: /d/
In addition to vocabulary, you can teach the pronunciation of -ed endings along with teaching the following grammar points.
Related Grammar Points:
- The simple past e.g. I walked in the park yesterday.
- Regular past participles e.g. I have studied English for three years now.
- Adjectives of emotion and mood e.g. I’m feeling tired, excited, frightened etc.