How to pronounce the “ed” verb ending
English learners sometimes have trouble pronouncing the “ed” verb ending in English, that is, the past simple and the past participle.
For example, the pronunciation of the verbs in the past worked, ended, and allowed are all pronounced differently.
Fortunately, English verbal conjugation is very regular, and most verbs are regular, ending in the “ed” ending or suffix. I.e.,
- Work – worked – worked
- End – ended – ended
- Allow – allowed – allowed
However, the pronunciation of the pasts (past simple and past participle) is irregular, but the good news is that there is a simple rule you can follow so that you will always pronounce the “ed” ending/suffix correctly.
The past endings or suffixes of the verbs above are pronounced as follows:
- Worked = /t/
- Ended = /id/
- Allowed = /d/
/t/, /id/, and /d/ are symbols from IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) that each represent a sound. You don’t have to worry about learning IPA; however, you will need to recognise the final sound of an infinitive so that you can pronounce the “ed” suffix correctly.
Let’s take a closer look at the “ed” verb ending
There are only three ways to pronounce the “ed” ending of verbs in English:
- /t/ (from Thomas, teach, time)
- /id/ (/i/ + /d/ – ship + head, end)
- /d/ (from head, end)
Don’t worry if you still don’t recognise the symbols (/t/, /id/ and /d/). It’s not that important, it’s only the sound that you will need to recognise.
So, how do you know which sound is which? That is, how are you supposed to know that the “ed” in worked is pronounced with a /t/ and not a /d/ for example?
Or that the “ed” in translated is pronounced with /id/ and not a /t/? Let’s learn three simple rules that you can follow.
Three rules to pronounce the “ed” ending correctly
1. The /t/ ending
If an infinitive (work, hope, wash etc.) ends in the following sounds (remember, sounds not letters) then the “ed” ending will be pronounced with a /t/ ending:
- /t/ = /p/, /f/, /s/, /ch/, /sh/, /k/
hope, help, laugh, rough, promise, convince, watch, wash, work, walk
The ending of:
- Hope = /p/ and /p/ = /t/ in the past.
- Laugh = /f/ and /f/ = /t/ in the past.
- Promise = /s/ and /s/ = /t/ in the past.
- Watch = /ch/ and /ch/ = /t/ in the past.
- Wash = /sh/ and /sh/ = /t/ in the past.
- Work = /k/ and /k/ = /t/ in the past.
This is the hardest rule to remember, but the other two rules are much easier.
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to recognise the IPA symbols (/f/, /sh/ etc.), it’s only the sound that you have to correlate so that you can pronounce the “ed” ending correctly.
2. The /id/ ending
If an infinitive (end, command, hate, translate etc.) ends in the following sounds (remember, sounds not letters) then the “ed” ending will be pronounced with a /id/ ending:
/id/ = /d/, /t/
End, command, head, translate, hate, wait
The ending of:
- End = /d/ and /d/ = /id/ in the past.
- Command = /d/ and /d/ = /id/ in the past.
- Head = /d/ and /d/ = /id/ in the past.
- Translate = /t/ and /t/ = /id/ in the past.
- Hate = /t/ and /t/ = /id/ in the past.
- Wait = /t/ and /t/ = /id/ in the past.
This rule is fairly simple because you only need to remember the final sounds infinitives /d/ and /t/ = /t/ in the past, that is, an infinitive such as “hate” ends in a /t/ sound in the infinitive, therefore, the past “ed” ending is pronounced as /id/.
3. The /d/ ending
If an infinitive (allow, cry, enjoy etc.) ends in any other sound (remember, sounds not letters) then the “ed” ending will be pronounced with a /d/ ending:
/d/ = all other sounds
Allow, cry, imagine, tie, listen, beg (basically all infinitives that don’t belong to the first two categories (/t/ and /id/) belong to the third category. So no need to memorise any rules here!
The ending of:
Allow = /d/ in the past.
Cry = /d/ in the past.
Listen = /d/ in the past.
Beg = /d/ in the past.
Remember, it’s the sound of the infinitive, not the letter
Although the word “laugh” ends in the letter “h”, that has nothing to do with it – It’s the SOUND with which it finishes that counts. The final sound of the infinitive “laugh” is /f/, therefore, it is pronounced with a /t/ at the end of the past. That’s how the rule works.
Laugh = /ɭɑːf/
Laughed = /ɭɑːfʈ/
A mnemonic device – how to learn the rules naturally
Let the three rules as described above serve as a mnemonic device or an aid so that you will always pronounce the “ed” suffix in the past simple and past participle correctly.
An excellent and modern tool that you can utilise to help you consolidate this rule is by using an electronic e-reader with an in-built IPA dictionary.
Most e-readers come with an in-built dictionary with IPA, which is great because when you’re reading a book (electronically), and if you don’t know the correct pronunciation of the word (including the “ed” suffix), just press the word on your e-reader to get the IPA transcription.
It’ll be handy for you to know some basic IPA — or at the very least just try to correlate the endings/suffixes: /t/, /id/ and /d/ with the sounds.
If you don’t like reading books and only read articles on the internet, many browser extensions exist that you can use with the browser (Google, Firefox etc.) that would allow you to highlight any word on any webpage to obtain the IPA script for any given word.
Doing this would allow you to recognise the correct pronunciation of any word, as well as the correct pronunciation for the “ed” suffix.
For example, the IPA script for the following words:
As you can see, you only need to recognise the symbols /t/, /d/ and /id/ ( /i/ + /d/) to asertain how to pronounce the “ed” ending correctly.
Most verbs in English are regular, but when it comes to irregular verbs such as run, swim, become, drink etc. that do not end in the “ed” suffix then the above rule obviously will not apply.
However, as stated above, a great mnemonic device or memory aid would be the usage of an IPA dictionary (either in your internet browser or electronic e-reader) so that you can obtain the pronunciation of said words without having to hear them.
Otherwise, more natural learning methods such as watching television in English will surely help you a lot.
Examples of irregular verbs that don’t end in “ed”:
|Irregular verbs (infinitive, past simple and past participle)||IPA transcript|
|Run – ran – run||/rʌn/ /ræn/ /rʌn/|
|Swim – swam – swum||/swɪm/ /swæm/ /swʌm/|
|Become – became – become||/bɪˈkʌm/ /bɪˈkeɪm/ /bɪˈkʌm/|
|Drink – drank – drunk||/drɪŋk/ /dræŋk/ /drʌŋk/|
“Ed” verb ending table
How to pronounce the “ed” ending
|/t/ =||/id/ =||/d/ =|
|/p/, /f/, /s/, /ch/, /sh/, /k/||/d/, /t/||All others|
|Hope, laugh, fax, promise, walk, stop, axe, cough, watch, wash, talk, wish||Want, end, suggest, wait, start, translate, interpret, hate, hand, intend, command, head, need||Allow, cry, show, imagine, play, beg, realise, save, fill, save, prolong, age, listen|