“ed” Pronunciation. Here’s how to fix it quickly!

Everything you need to know about the pronunciation of words in English that end with ED; with a FREE download guide. Check it out now!

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Wanted, needed, kissed, cuddled, freshened… the ending is the same so the pronunciation should match. Right? Well, not quite. There are some key differences you need to learn to master the tricky “ed” pronunciation.

Sometimes English pronunciation can feel impossible. The words and the sounds just don’t match. You learn all the rules. You are super careful, and then another word appears that trips you up.

Don’t worry! We’ve all been there. It’s a natural part of learning a language that we all go through. Do you remember doing it as a child? You would constantly mispronounce things and your parents corrected you. The only difference is that as a kid we are blissfully unaware of the amazing progress we are making. As an adult, it can feel a whole lot harder.

So, here’s the solution to one of the top pronunciation errors. This is something I hear all the time, with almost every student I teach. But, it is so easily fixed. I promise!

Why is pronunciation important?

Is it important? Do I need to worry about pronunciation? Does it really matter?

Short answer… yes. Pronunciation is vital for many reasons. First, without clear pronunciation it is very difficult to be understood. So, all the words and grammar you’ve learnt won’t help you because the other person won’t understand you. Second, it helps the other person feel more comfortable talking to you.

Let’s think about language like music. There are lots of different aspects of pronunciation; tone, intonation, rhythm, stress. All these work together to create the melody. When everything is in the right place it’s like listening to a beautiful song. It’s a pleasure for the ears and you want more. Yet, if a couple of notes are wrong or the tempo changes, it’s less enjoyable. The same song can sound very different.

Conversation is exactly the same. Matching the pronunciation makes people enjoy listening to you more. The speech “feels” right to the listener. With no little red flags popping up, that highlight something is wrong. The conversation moves smoothly and everyone has a great time.

The Three sounds

Back to the “ed” words then. Even though the spelling is the same there are actually three sounds we use. To illustrate this I will use the phonetic alphabet (IPA) with an example word.

  • /t/ – like in “it
  • /d/ – like in “bad
  • /ɪd/ – like in “kid

Notice anything surprising here? There is no /ed/ like “head“. The most common mistake that learners make is to copy the spelling and add /ed/ to every word. While everyone will understand you it sounds very unnatural. Sometimes even causing misunderstanding. And that’s not what we want!

But, how do you know which sound to choose? To answer that we have to look at how we produce consonant sounds in English.

The Technical Bit

A consonant is any sound that isn’t a vowel (traditionally a, e, i, o and u). To make the consonant sounds in English you have to stop the air in your mouth. We do this in lots of different ways depending on the sound we want to produce. To help describe these actions we use three different factors:

  1. Type of obstruction – How we stop the air
  2. Location of obstruction – Where we stop the air
  3. Voicing – If it is “voiced” or “unvoiced”

For this problem we are going to focus on voicing.

“Voiced” or “Voiceless”?

How to understand the pronunciation of English voiced and voiceless sounds.

All this talk of phonetics can start sounding a little complicated and overwhelming. But trust me, it’s really simple. When we talk about voicing we mean vibration.

Let’s get a little physical now. Put your hand on your throat (on top of your Adam’s apple) and make the /d/ sounds from “bad” a couple of times. You should feel a little vibration. Therefore, this sound is voiced.

Now, do the same again but make the /t/ sound from “it“. This time there is no vibration. Therefore, this sounds is unvoiced.

I promised it would be easy, right?

Now let me show you how put these tools into practice.

Ignore the “ed”

We start by ignoring the “ed” at the end of the word. I know… it sounds a little silly but it’s true. To get this right you have to start without the “ed” ending. Now look at the last consonant sound before the “ed” and ask yourself if it’s Voiced or Voiceless (Vibration or no vibration).

For example, we have the word “kissed”. Removing the “ed” will give us “kiss”. The last consonant sound of this word is /s/. So, put your hand on your throat and make the sound. What do you think? That’s right! It’s Voiceless (no vibration).

Now you know if it is voiced or voiceless you can choose the correct sound to add on the end of the word.

  • Voiced (vibration) + /d/
  • Voiceless (no vibration) + /t/

Going back to our example of “kissed”. We found out that /s/ (the final consonant sound before “ed“) is voiceless which means we add /t/ (like ‘it“). That makes the word produced like “kiss-t”.

Spill that /t/

Here are some examples of words you add /t/:

  • Dipped
  • Cooked
  • Sniffed
  • Laughed
  • Mashed
  • Watched
  • Kissed
  • Danced
  • Mixed

The big /d/

And now some examples of words you add /d/:

  • Called
  • Signed
  • Offered
  • Damaged
  • Loved
  • Used
  • Dazed
  • Rubbed
  • Dreamed

The /id/-iotic exception

There are always exceptions in English but this time it’s an easy one. If the last letter before “ed” in the word is t or d, then you add /ɪd/ (like “kid“). Here are some examples:

  • Wanted
  • Hinted
  • Heated
  • Wasted
  • Needed
  • Downloaded
  • Worded

My handy guide

Congratulations! Now you can pronounce every “ed” word with ease. And that’s not all. I have prepared a great little reference guide for you. So when you are stuck, or not sure what to do, you can pull this out and know instantly. Just click the link to download your copy now.

Have you got any other pronunciation problems you want me to explain? Or a subject you find difficult in English? No problem! Drop me a comment or get in touch. I am always happy to help.

Until next time!

P.s. Do you also find prepositions tricky? Check out my post from earlier this month where I show you how to master the prepositions of time.

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