/ed/, /t/ or /d/

I used to have a handout on when the -ed of past tense verbs is pronounced /ed/, /t/ or /d/. However, I can’t find it and I no longer work for the school where I “creatively borrowed” it from. I need it for a private student I have. Anyone have one they can email me? And/or, can someone give me a simple set of “rules”? :help:

I don’t have any activities on tap, but there are just a few rules:

if the original verb ends in /d/ or /t/ the past tense ending adds a vowel and is pronounced /Id/ or “ed” (with a schwa e)
if the verb ends with a voiced sound (other than d) the ending is assimilated and pronounced /d/
if the verb ends with a voiceless consonant (other than t) the ending is assimilated and pronounced /t/

for a variety of activities for this (and many other) pronunciation points you can check Marianne Celce-Murcia et al. Teaching Pronunciation a Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (available at the Eslite on Dun Hua)

For those who are not aware of what voiced and voiceless consonants are (and in more layman terms than above):

Voiced consonants (without a vowel sound like ‘buh’ or saying the letter ‘bee’) can be detected when in saying the sound, you feel your larynx buzz. With voiceless consonants, when you say just their sound, you cannot feel your larynx vibrate. This is a nice thing to demonstrate to your students to help them understand the idea.

/b/, /d/, /g/, /dz/ (the sound in judge), /?/ (the sound in the middle of ‘button’ in American English), /l/, /m/, /n/, /r/, /v/, /w/, /z/, the /z/ sound in ‘measure’, and the ‘th’ sound in the word ‘then’ are voiced consonant sounds common in English.

Their voiceless counterparts (with the exceptions of /l/, /m/, /n/, /r/, and /w/) in order are /p/, /t/, /k/, /ts/ (sound in pizza), /h/, /f/, /s/, ‘sh’, and the ‘th’ sound in ‘thin’.

A way to remember is that /d/ is voiced and goes with voiced consonants whereas /t/ is voiceless and goes with voiceless consonants.

Verbs like robbed, blurred, drilled, dragged, lined, judged, buzzed, and hemmed have a /d/ sound to represent the -ed ending.

Verbs like laughed, stopped, hissed, fished, packed, and kicked have a /t/ sound to represent the -ed sound.

Hope this was more helpful than confusing. :s


Taiwanese tend to make way too much over minor pronunciation differences. They forget that English isn’t the same as Chinese - exact pronunciation is not so important. In Chinese exact pronunciation is extremely important, but in English there are many different accents and it is acceptable to pronounce the same word forty different ways depending on your geographical location. You say tomato, I say tomato. How many native English speakers can actually tell the difference between the two different /th/ sounds, or the difference between /e/ and /i/ in ‘pen’ and ‘pin’? The ending /d/ and /t/ sounds are indistinguishable coming from most native speakers’ mouths. Taiwanese spend hours upon hours doing these silly pronunciation drills, instead of using that wasted time on something more constructive such as grammar & vocabulary. What’s the point when if you visit Australia you’re going to have to totally change half of your pronunciation habits because they pronounce the ‘a’ in ‘cat’ totally different from in North American English?

I would disagree with you modlang, i find them to be quite distinguishable. pronouncing regular past tense verbs at all is surely an important point of grammar, if you want to teach this you certainly should get the relatively minor point of t d id down first. I find my students rarely use the wrong pronounciation after fairly little explanation and drill. i agree with you about dialect differences but that argument really doesn’t hold water here as this is a common feature across dialects.

Also those ending in vowel sounds, ie played cried studied showed

Thanks to everyone, even mod lang :p, for your help and comments. And, ImaniOU, it was helpful and not confusing. I can never remember what exactly is a voiced and unvoiced sound. I ain’t no linguist, ya know?!?! :wink:

As for mod lang’s comments, perhaps most native-English speakers don’t think about the differences between both “th” sounds or between /d/ & /t/. However, I think, if reminded they would notice them. There is a lot about English that we (or at least I) take for granted, 'cause we (or I) speak it everyday (though, maybe, less in Taiwan :smiley:). I find the more I try to explain English to people, I learn, or more likely remember, more about the language.

By the way, I am perfectly aware that there is more than one way to pronounce words. For example, “liberal” where the “er” is pronounced – lib-er-al – and where it isn’t – lib-ral. I usually, when I’m aware of a difference, try to inform my students of the different ways. I also try to give them suggestions as to, in my experience, what is the more common way of saying it.

Oh… most of the students I encounter know KK phonetics. They often ask me how to write or pronounce something using KK and seem a bit suprised when I tell them they didn’t teach us that in the US. Do you think it would be helpful to learn (so, for instance, I know to write /Id/ instead of /ed/ like I did)? If so, any resources you can recommend to help me learn it?

Thanks. :sunglasses:

[quote=“mod lang”]The ending /d/ and /t/ sounds are indistinguishable coming from most native speakers’ mouths.[/quote]You might think that the difference is pretty slight, but how about when the following word starts with a vowel sound? The difference is clear then because of the linking. Say these aloud at a normal speed with normal linking, and you will see what I mean.
The man cried out.
The cat slipped out.
Of course the /Id/ ending is very distinctive whether linked to a vowel sound or not.

You make an interesting point about overemphasis on teaching of pronunciation. I have not heard of specific classes focussing only on pronunciation here, whereas at the college where I did my Cert. TESOL, the full-time ESL students did have one specific class of this per week. This class was primarily given because the students demanded it, but the teachers had their doubts as to its efficacy. They felt that pronunciation issues were best dealt with in the normal integrated skills classes, rather than being focussed upon in isolation.

The case above is one which links naturally to a particular grammar point; the regular past simple verb ending. Thus it is very easily taught in integration with grammar. If you don’t explain the rule, students will probably ask you about it anyway - why are there three different ending sounds, and when are they used?

Of course some people would argue that the explicit teaching of foreign language rules does very little for actual acquisition of and communicative competency in that language. But that goes equally for grammar, which you mentioned as something to be taught in preference to pronunciation. I would say that at the least, teaching this point explicitly benefits students’ comprehension of the language, which enables further acquisition. In addition, it is an interesting point from the point of view of language appreciation; you will very likely have students asking about it anyway so I would have thought it worthwhile to explain it briefly rather than saying “it’s not important for you to know.”

Phonemic writing systems can certainly be useful at times. K.K. has some deficiencies but it is still by far the most commonly used system in Taiwan (although nowhere else). I forget how many sounds it has symbols for but it will be around 42.

Other systems, used internationally, are more closely or accurately based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The IPA has a great many symbols which can represent the sounds of every language. As with K.K., the other systems for phonemic representation of English are subsets of the IPA, taking around 44 symbols from it to describe the phonemes of English.

You could learn K.K. very quickly by borrowing a chart from a student and getting him or her to run through the sounds with you. It takes a while to use it consistently, though, as there is always the temptation to transcribe a word according to how it is spelt rather than how it sounds. For example, when my fellow students and I were first practising phonemic transcription in the TESOL course, we would often add a vowel phoneme to the end of a word like ‘cake’, looking at the ‘e’ and forgetting that the final sound is /k/.

In addition, remember that K.K. and the other phonemic symbol sets are not useful for transcribing subtle differences in accent. For that, you need to use a finer transcription method and a wider range of symbols from the IPA. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language which can cause a change in meaning; thus the vowel sounds in ‘pet’ and ‘pot’ are different phonemes, but regional variations in the pronunciation of the vowel sound in ‘pet’ alone do not constitute different phonemes, because there is no change in meaning and generally the difference in sound is smaller than that between the different phonemes.

See this post and the whole thread for further information (the Karen Chung link is very interesting);
[forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.ph … 221#128221](Should the use of K.K. be restricted?

If you’re teaching this then why not make the students figure it out for themselves? I’ve done an exercise a few times where you work through the alphabet, and make the students come up with verbs ending with each letter. (The last letter is not always the most important one, so you have to improvise a bit, but you get the idea.)

Have the students figure out which is the appropriate ‘ed’ sound for their verbs. They soon realise (if you don’t tell them) that the /id/ sound is so that you don’t have to ‘change gear’ while pronouncing ‘lifted’. Likewise the /t/ and /d/ sounds have evolved because it’s easier to pronounce the words that way. ‘Kicked’ is pronounced with a /t/ because there would be an uncomfortable break in the word to accomodate the /d/ sound. This is what I think of as ‘changing gear’ and they usually get the concept pretty quickly.

The ‘rule’ is that you say it whichever way is easiest.

Well, my only reason for wanting to learn it is to make things easier for the private students I have now and/or classes I may have in the future. Since I don’t have any plans on teaching English (professionally, as a career, or however you want to say it) outside of Taiwan, knowing a Taiwan-only phonetic system works for me.

In the past, I’ve always tried to get my students to understand a particular pronunciation by comparing it to sounds in other words… “That letter/letter group sounds like the same letter/group in the word ___” Ya know? However, that doesn’t always work. And, as I’ve said, I notice most people here know KK and seem to use it to aid in pronunciation.

I am not looking for it to be the be-all-end-all… just a help in getting across different sounds.

[quote]See this post and the whole thread for further information (the Karen Chung link is very interesting);
[forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.ph … 221#128221](Should the use of K.K. be restricted?



A useful resource though I couldn’t find anything there.

Still worth mentioning.


Yes, instead of just telling them the rule, give them some examples (e.g. what I did above) ask them what they notice about the pronunciation of -ed and then have them do a gap fill of the rules in a group. Or at least that’s what I did with my 4th graders when I noticed that while they got the sounds correct in their spoken English, they often mispronounced the sounds when reading aloud which showed they had the competence, but not the knowledge. It was an easy lesson and because they had already internalized the rule in spoken English, it was just a matter of knowing it with unfamilar words. I tested to make sure they understood the rule by giving them nonsense verbs like ‘spolled’ or ‘pliked’ in a story to see if they were decoding them correctly. they got it very quickly.

ML, as with any language, native speakers don’t think about the rules or differences because we have already internalized those things as infants and young children when we began learning our languages. Many of us can point that “Yesterday I have gone to the store” is incorrect, but how many of us can tell why? The message is there, but a non-native speaker needs to understand why this sentence, while understandable, is incorrect. The same thing for saying /stopId/ for stopped.
How many native speakers can tell the difference between /I/ and /E/? Ask someone for a laundry pig and let me know what happens.

Just an update. I’m gave my student a handout with the rules, examples, etc… I did a simple review, drawing his attention to one or more points. However, I didn’t go into much detail with it. I told him to review it more this weekend and in our next class I’d give him some practice.

I’m going to use the ideas that were suggested, having him come up with the correct ending, based on the verb I give him. I also told him to think about why we have 3 different ways of pronouncing the ending. I want to see if he can come up with the “change gear” idea from stragbasher, which I think has some merit.

Thanks again for all your help. :smiley: