Hacks for the Past Tense "ED" Pronunciation in English

Tips and Tricks for Easier "-ed" Pronunciation

Whether your language learning experience has been "easy" or "difficult" with English, there's probably one thing that can be agreed on regardless of your native tongue: pronunciation.

And, while on the subject of pronunciation, probably one of the MOST difficult things to pronounce in English is the "ed" sound in past tense. Sometimes it sounds like a "d" which, is what it seems like it should sound like, right? Other times, it sounds like a "t" and, then, every now and again it sounds like "id".

You're right. The "ed" endings actually do make ALL of those sounds- and I know that probably doesn't make you feel any better.

However, there are a few little tips to make this process easier:

1. Understand that the 3 -ed endings sounds (-id, d, t) are broken up into two categories: Voiced and Unvoiced.

Um...what?! Ok, let's make this easier. Take two fingers and place them gently on your throat. Obviously, when you speak, you will feel your vocal chords vibrate. Now, when we say a sound is "voiced" what that means is, you can truly feel the vibration in your throat. Sounds such as B, D, G, J, L, M, N, Ng, R, Sz, Th (as in the word "then"), V, W, Y, and Z. Unvoiced or Voiceless, cover the rest of the sounds like Ch, F, K, P, S, Sh, T, and Th (as in "thing") and are made with your mouth so you will not feel them to be as strong as the Voiced sounds when your fingers are on your throat. The Unvoiced/Voiceless will actually make you push a little puff of air from your mouth.

Have you moved your fingers? Or, you you have your hand in front of your mouth to check to see if you can feel your breath? Well, don't. Challenge yourself to feel the difference in the sounds by saying these words and comparing how the sounds feel when you say them:

Unvoiced/Voiceless (puff of air):

  • washed
  • coats
  • watched
  • books
  • seats
  • dropped
  • carts

Voiced (in your throat):

  • traveled
  • gloves
  • shells
  • started
  • changed
  • wheels
  • lived
With your fingers on your throat (silly as it is), could you feel the difference when you said the word "washed" and when you said "traveled"? Or, did you feel a little breath of air? Say them in reverse order now, "traveled" and "washed". Feel it? Great! Still don't feel it? That's ok, there's more tips ;)

2. Focus on what letter the infinitive verb/root word ends with

  • If it ends with a 'T' or a 'D', it will end with -id. Words like ended, wanted, or needed. You'll notice that this -id sound creates another syllable for the word: Need -id. Want -id. End -id. Why is that? Well, it would sound a little silly if you continued the end sound: Needdd. Wanttt. Endduddudhh. Obviously he last one is a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.

  • Now, unfortunately if you were not able to feel the difference in the last tip I pointed out to you, then this will require memorization.

Yeah...but think about how awesome you're going to feel whenever you know you are sure about this! So let's go:

Voiced sounds are, as mentioned: B, D, G, J, L, M, N, Ng, R, Sz, Th (as in the word "then"), V, W, Y, and Z. Unvoiced/Voiceless sounds are Ch, F, K, P, S, Sh, T, and Th (as in "thing").

Disclaimer: If you say all of those sounds out loud, you're going to sound like there's something wrong with you, so please don't do this at work.

Anyway, once you are in the privacy of your own home where you can say these out loud, things may or may not get easier. The Unvoiced/Voiceless end with a "t" sound while he Voiced sounds will end with a "d" sound.

Voiceless (T sound ending):
  • asked
  • checked
  • kicked
  • liked
  • looked
  • talked
  • thanked
  • walked
  • worked
  • reached
  • searched
  • noticed
  • reduced
  • guessed
  • impressed
  • increased
  • missed
  • crashed
  • punished
  • pushed
  • announced
  • danced
  • laughed
  • fixed
  • relaxed
Voiced (D sound ending):
  • excited
  • interrupted
  • invented
  • arrived
  • saved
  • rejected
  • started
  • waited
  • decided
  • paused
  • warned
  • claimed
  • managed
  • borrowed
  • hugged
  • sneezed
  • ended
  • appeared
  • compared
  • considered
  • expanded
  • guarded
  • included
  • needed
  • pretended
  • reminded

And, for good measure, words ending with Tor D (-id sound/Extra syllable endings):
  • accepted
  • appreciated
  • cheated
  • connected
  • excited
  • interrupted
  • invented
  • rejected
  • started
  • waited
  • avoided
  • decided
  • ended
  • expanded
  • guarded
  • included
  • needed
  • pretended
  • reminded
  • succeeded

At this point, you should be an expert. You have the tools to succeed and several word lists for practice. However, if you want to keep practicing these recently acquired skills, let's schedule a class together. See you there! :)

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