English Language Blog

Pronunciation: English past tense -ed Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 in English Grammar

Image by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.com.

Image by hobvias sudoneighm
on Flickr.com.

Here is a short lesson about the pronunciation of the past tense ending –ed suffix used in English. It is common for ESL speakers to mispronounce words in the past tense, but after reading this post I hope any confusion you have about the different pronunciations of the regular past tense –ed ending are cleared up.

I have a short video at the end of the post so that you not only read about these pronunciation rules, but you also get to hear how different verbs sound when the -ed suffix is added.

To begin, as a review, forming the regular past tense in English is rather simple: just add –ed to the end of the base form of the verb. This is true if you are using the verb to talk about yourself (first person), someone else, or a group of people (second and third person). There is only one conjugation for the regular past tense in English (add -ed). There are of course many irregular past tense verbs in English too, but this post is focused only on the regular past tense verbs.

Although it is easy to remember how to form the past tense in English, remembering how to pronounce this –ed differently with different verbs can be a bit more tricky. Even though there is only one way to write the –ed suffix, there are three ways to pronounce it! These differences in pronunciation are associated with the last sounds of the word the –ed suffix is added to.

Take a look at the chart below. This chart outlines the three ways the –ed suffix can be pronounced: /Id/, /t/, and /d/.



If the base verb ends in one of these sounds: Example base verb Example with-ed Pronounce the –ed: Is there an extra syllable?
/t/ or /d/ accept accepted /Id/ yes
end ended
all unvoiced sounds hope hoped /t/ no





laugh laughed
fax faxed
wash washed
watch watched
like liked
All other letter sounds, for example…. play played /d/
allow allowed
beg begged


The pronunciation that is used with the most number of verb is /d/. Think of this as your ‘fallback’ or ‘go-to’ pronunciation for the –ed suffix. So, when shouldn’t you use the pronunciation? Here is one time you should use a different pronunciation: for verbs that end in unvoiced sounds (unvoiced sounds are ones in which you forcibly push air out from your mouth without vibrating your vocal cords). If you have trouble figuring out what sounds are unvoiced, hold your hand in front of your mouth and say some different sounds. For sounds like /p/ or /ch/ you should feel air exit your mouth and hit your hand. If this happens you are producing an unvoiced sound. For sounds like /g/ or /m/ you won’t feel air. These are voiced sounds.  In English if a verb ends in an unvoiced sound, the –ed ending is pronounced like the letter ‘t’.  Also, if a verb already ends in the sound /t/ or /d/ then the –ed suffix forms an additional syllable, and both the letters ‘e’ and ‘d’ (of the –ed ending) are pronounced as /Id/.

Based on what I have just presented take a look at the following verbs in the past tense and try pronouncing them using these new rules. Give it a go!



Now listen to me pronouncing these different past tense verbs and see if you got their pronunciation correct. If not, don’t despair, play the video again, review the chart above once more, and try again. Practice makes perfect.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. Gerardo Martinez:

    I like it very much!!! Great!!!