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Correct phonetic sounds of –ed ending on past participles in English

My family and I have lived here in Slovakia for almost fifteen years. Slovak was the sixth language I had studied in my life. English is, of course, my native language; but I have studied Sango, French, Portuguese, Amharic and Tigrina as well. I grew up in the Central African Republic where I was fluent in both Sango and French. After completing my university degree I spent two years teaching in Brazil. I studied Portuguese, and was fairly fluent at the end of my two years there. After I married, I lived and worked in Ethiopia for two years. While there I studied both Amharic and Tigrina. Although I never became completely fluent in either of those languages, I did learn enough to make myself understood in basic conversation.

Before coming to Slovakia in 2001 we attended a two week Language Acquisition Course in Colorado, USA.    During the training we learned to recognize linguistic sounds so that we would be able to identify them and reproduce them in a new language.  Having correct pronunciation is very important when learning a new language.  Slovak is great because it is a very phonetic language. Once you learn the sounds for each letter of the alphabet you can pretty much read even if you don’t understand everything you are reading. English is not so easy. However, we do have special phonetic sounds that will help you learn to pronounce English words correctly. Let me share just one of those pronunciation tricks with you.

One of the most commonly mispronounced phonetic sounds in English is the –ed ending on past participles.   This ending can be pronounced in three voiced or voiceless ways: [t], [d] or [Id].  How do you know which is correct?  Well, there are phonetic rules that can help.


          1) [əd] or [ɪd] final sound:  When the verb ends in the sounds [t] or [d] it will cause the "-ed" ending of a verb to be pronounced as the syllable [əd] or [ɪd].

  • [t] “He wanted a new job.” [wantid]
  • [d] “We ended the service early.” [endid]


          2) [t] final sound: When the verb ends in a voiceless sound [p, k, θ (th - hard), f, s, ʃ(sh), tʃ(ch)] it causes the “-ed” ending to be pronounced as the voiceless [t] (with no vocal chord vibration).  Look at the examples below:

  • [p] “He popped a balloon.” [papt]
  • [k] “They talked a lot” [takt]
  • [θ] “th”: “She frothed a cup of milk” [frawθt]
  • [f] “I laughed at the movie.” [læft]
  • [s] “She kissed a frog.” [kIst]
  • [ʃ] “sh”: “We brushed it off.” [bruʃt]
  • [tʃ] “ch”: “I reached around for it.” [riytʃt]


          3) [d] final sound : When the verb ends in a voiced sound [b, g, ð (th-soft), v, z, ʒ , dʒ (dge), m, n, ŋ (ng), r, l] it causes the “-ed” ending to be pronounced as a voiced [d]. Words that end with –ay, - eigh also follow this rule. Look at the following examples:

  • [b] “It bobbed up and down.” [babd]
  • [g] “He begged her to stay.” [bɛgd]
  • [ð] “She breathed loudly.” [briyðd]
  • [v] “They loved it.” [luvd]
  • [z] “We raised her expectations.” [reyzd]
  • [dʒ] “They bridged the gap.” [brId]
  • [m] “I claimed it was mine.” [kleymd]
  • [n] “They banned new members.” [bænd]
  • [ŋ] “She banged into the chair.” [bæŋd]
  • [r] “He cleared it up.” [kliyrd]
  • [l] “I rolled up the paper.” [rowld]
  • [ay] “I played basketball in college.” [playd]
  • [eigh] “He weighed the baby.” [weighd]

*Note that it is the sound that is important, not the letter or spelling. For example, fax ends in the letter x but the sound /s/; like ends in the letter e but the sound /k/.



The following -ed words used as adjectives are pronounced with /ɪd/:

  • Aged – an aged man.
  • Dogged – a dogged persistence
  • Ragged – a ragged doll
  • blessed – a blessed nuisance
  • learned – a learned professor
  • wicked – a wicked humor
  • crooked – a crooked politician
  • naked – a naked fear
  • wretched – a wretched beggar

But when used as real verbs (past simple and past participle), the normal rules apply and we say:

  • he aged quickly /d/
  • he blessed me /t/
  • they dogged him /d/
  • he has learned well /d/ or /t/


LeAnne Waite



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