Pronunciation

Target Pronunciation: How To Pronounce -ED Words in English

Alternate Endings

The pronunciation of words ending in -ed in English can be really confusing.

For every -ed word, there are three alternative ending sounds to choose from:

  1. Add an extra syllable /-ed/
  2. Make a stopped sound /t/
  3. Make a stopped sound /d/

Alternate endings might be great for TV series, but alternate pronunciation in English? Not so much.

Look at the words rated and raked, for example. They are the same word (except for one letter) but are pronounced very differently.

The word rated has two syllables: (Ray-TID).

The word raked only has one syllable (RAYKT).

As you can hear, the word raked ends in a stopped /t/ sound, while the word rated has an extra syllable /-ed/.

Why? Because English.

So let’s forget about why. Instead, let’s talk about when and how— because when you know how to produce stopped sounds, your English pronunciation (and listening) will improve a lot!

Here’s everything you need to know about when and how to pronounce -ed words in English.

When To Add an Extra Syllable (-ed)

When a root word ends in a /t/ or /d/ sound, add an extra syllable /-ed/.

The silent e on words like ‘hate’ and ‘decide’ does not affect the pronunciation rule. Add and speak the extra syllable -ed, which is pronounced as a soft /Id/ sound.

This looks pretty simple so far. But be careful. There are very few words that take an extra syllable /-ed/. Most words end in a short /t/ or /d/ sound, so let’s look at how to pronounce those.

Words Ending in Stopped Sounds (t or d)

Question: Does the word stopped have one or two syllables?

If you answered one, you’re right! Stopped is actually pronounced STOPT, not STOPP-ED.

One syllable, one ending: /t/.

Words that end in an unvoiced sound have a stopped /t/ sound.

Unvoiced sounds include {f, k, p, s, sh, ch, th, and x}.

Listen to how the words above are pronounced. Copy the audio.

Now practice again with words ending in the /d/ sound.

Words that end in a voiced sound have a stopped /d/ sound.

Voiced sounds include {b, j, g, l, m, n, r, v, z, and all vowels}.

Listen to how the words above are pronounced. Copy the audio.

How To Pronounce Stopped Words Like a Native Speaker

Making stopped sounds /t/ and /d/ takes some getting used to. As with most things, practice makes perfect!

I use the following trick to teach my students how to do it in three easy steps:

  1. Touch your first finger to your thumb and say the root word, for example: stop.
  2. Then, flick your finger as you release a /t/ sound by touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth above your teeth.
  3. Repeat this 4-5 times until you can do it faster. Then you will have correctly pronounced the word stopped! Try it again with the /d/ sound below.
Speak ‘stop’ and then flick the /t/ sound! You have just pronounced ‘stopped’ correctly!
Speak ‘open’ and then flick the /d/ sound. You have just pronounced “opened” correctly!

With time and practice, you will be able to pronounce any word ending in -ed correctly. Try reading more stopped sounds below. Flick your finger for the /t/ and /d/ sounds.


Common Words with Stopped /t/ Sounds

asked

locked

cooked

liked

looked

picked

walked

checked

hiked

talked

stopped

flipped

tapped

dipped

stamped

wrapped

chopped

slipped

trapped

shopped

watched

matched

pitched

punched

reached

touched

searched

patched

stitched

latched

washed

pushed

brushed

wished

crushed

flushed

stashed

crashed

rushed

trashed

passed

missed

kissed

danced

guessed

erased

faced

spiced

pressed

dressed

fixed

mixed

waxed

taxed

boxed

relaxed

puffed

laughed

stuffed

bluffed


Common Words with Stopped /d/ Sounds

robbed

climbed

called

smelled

boiled

peeled

smiled

rolled

fooled

spelled

encouraged

judged

aged

tried

blamed

alarmed

dreamed

climbed

turned

returned

shared

bored

prepared

tired

scared

cleaned

banned

burned

ruined

rained

lived

loved

arrived

carved

waved

saved

believed

raised

advised

closed

used

argued

played

cried

tried

glued

replied

denied

applied

supplied


Want more classroom practice? You can download the practice worksheets here.

Ready to take the quiz? Check your progress HERE

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