Don’t have a great accent? You’re not able to mimic a British or an American accent? Forget it. Simply trying to obtain a perfect English accent is pointless and has no sense in a world where non-native English speakers far outnumber native English speakers 5 to 1. English has asserted itself as the universal tongue, and you’ll primarily find yourself communicating mostly with other non-natives, so why bother with the accent? What you should be bothered about though, is your pronunciation. This matters. A lot. Native Spanish speakers, for one, have a tendency to be rather slack and inefficient with their English pronunciation. I’m here to tell you that, after reading this article, and solidifying the rules in to your heads, those horrible mistakes you’re making will be made a thing of the past. Now, let’s get down and dirty, and solve this once and for all!
(The symbols used in this article, such as; /ʒ/m/æ/t/ etc.., come from IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). These symbols are used to identify the sounds of consonants and vowels.You don’t need to learn them, but you will need to have a clear idea of what sounds they produce. I’ve detailed and explained all of this for you in our IPA chart, See link; https://englishreservoir.com/ipa-chart/ and also our introduction to IPA at https://englishreservoir.com/2017/03/28/quick-introduction-to-ipa/ )
- #1 the ‘ed’ suffix. Stop saying ‘I work…ed’ ‘She help….ed’. ‘I enjoy…..ed’. Luckily, this is one of the few things in English that is blessed by a rule, so let’s take a look.
Ed = 1. /t/ = /p/f/s/sh/ch/k
2. /id/ = /t/d/
3. /d/ = all other sounds that aren’t the above sounds
- If the final sound of the infinitive (not the letter) ends in one of these sounds; /p/f/s/sh/ch/k, then you need to make the ‘ed’ suffix sound like a /t/ sound. Hope = /p/; laugh = /f/; convince = /s/; wash = /sh/; watch = /ch/; walk = /k/.
Hope, help = /p/
Laugh, cough = /f/
Convince, promise = /s/
Wash, wish = /sh/
Watch, clutch = /ch/
Walk, talk = /k/
Every time you come across one of these words in the past, and the infinitive ends in: /p/f/s/sh/ch/k, then you need to make the suffix ‘ed’ (in the past) sound like a /t/. Reading will help greatly here.
Help, help = Help/t/ Hope/t/
Laugh, cough = Laugh/t/, cough/t/
Convince, promise = Convince/t/ , promise/t/
Wash, wish = Wash/t/ , wish/t/
Watch, clutch = Watch/t/ , clutch/t/
Walk , talk = Walk/t/ , talk/t/
- If the final sound of the infinitive (not the letter) ends in /t/d/, then you need to make the ‘ed’ suffix sound like a /id/ sound. (in the past). Wait = /id/; translate = /id/; hate = /id/; end = /id/.
Wait, translate, start, want, interpret = /id/
End, intend, command, recommend = /id/
Every time you come across one of these words in the past, and the infinitive ends in: /t/d/, then you need to make the suffix ‘ed’ (in the past) sound like a /id/.
Suggest, translate, hate, start = suggest/id/; translate/id/; hate/id/; start/id/
Intend, end, command, recommend = Intend/id/; end/id/; command/id/; recommend/id/
- If the final sound of the infinitive (not the letter) ends in any other sound that’s NOT /p/f/s/sh/ch/k or /t/d/ then it will end in the sound /d/. In this case, you’ll need to make the ‘ed’ suffix sound like a /d/ sound. (in the past). Allow = allow = /d/; enjoy = /d/; realise = /d/; play = /d/.
Allow, beg, clean, imagine, enjoy = /d/
Every time you come across one of these words in the past, and the infinitive doesn’t end in: /p/f/s/sh/ch/k/ or /t/d/, then you need to make the suffix ‘ed’ (in the past) sound like a /d/.
Allow, beg, clean, imagine, enjoy = allow/d/; begg/d/; clean/d/; imagine/d/; enjoy/d/
- #2, diphthong: two vowel sounds joined in one syllable to form one speech sound https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diphthong. When you come across a diphthong it’s really important to sound out the diphthong, and make it a little stronger and longer.
Colleague, beach, sheet, employee, interviewee, though, heat, meat, hear, boost etc.
You must get into the habit of reading and sounding out diphthongs while you read, making sure you put more accentuation on the diphthong, thus making it stronger and longer. Doing this will make all the difference in your pronunciation.
- #3, the ‘a’ in: came, sang, ran, became, drank, lad, bad, cat = /æ/. Please see our IPA chart to read more on IPA (international phonetic alphabet) https://englishreservoir.com/ipa-chart/
It’s vital that you distinguish and apply the correct sound to the letter ‘a’. Although the ‘a’ does take two sounds in English, usually you’ll know it’s /æ/ when it’s a past simple form.
You need to make this /æ/ so people can differentiate between the infinitive, past and past participle:
Come – came – come c/æ/me
Sing – sang – sung s/æ/me
Run – ran- run r/æ/n
Become – became – become bec/æ/me
Drink – drank – drunk dr/æ/nk
Conclusion: if you learn to apply these three rules and constantly read aloud to yourself, practising and perfecting these sounds, within no time at all you’ll be pronouncing just like a native.