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How to Pronounce and Write -ED Suffixes in the English Language

By Heather Marie Kosur

The -ed suffix forms the simple past tense and past participle forms of regular English verbs. The following article outlines the rules for how to write and pronounce -ed words in English and provides examples for clarification.

The -ED Suffix in English

A suffix is a bound morpheme—the smallest linguistic unit of a language with semantic meaning—that affixes to the end of a word to form English a new word or a new form of the same word. In English, the rule for adding -ed to words applies to the conjugation of regular verbs into both the simple past tense and the past participle. The following sections explain and exemplify the rules for how to pronounce -ed words in English as well as how to spell verbs with the -ed suffix in written English.

Pronouncing -ED Words in English

Teaching English language students to pronounce -ed words in English involves learning three simple pronunciation rules. First, if the last sound of the verb is [t]* (t, tt, te) or [d] (d, de), then the -ed suffix is pronounced as [әd] (ed). For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix – Pronunciation
  • complete – completed – [kәmplitәd]
  • impede – impeded – [Impidәd]
  • need – needed – [nidәd]
  • want – wanted – [wantәd]

Second, if the last sound of the verb is a voiceless consonant, then the -ed suffix is pronounced as a voiceless [t] (t). Voiceless consonants, which are also called unvoiced consonants, are produced by not vibrating the voice box in the throat. The eight voiceless consonants in English are [p] (p, pe), [k] (k, ck, ke), [s] (s, se, ce), [š] (sh), [f] (f, gh), [θ] (th), [h] (h), and [j] (y). For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix – Pronunciation
  • ask – asked – [askt]
  • envelop – enveloped – [ɛnvɛləpt]
  • kiss – kissed – [kist]
  • laugh – laughed – [laft]
  • peep – peeped – [pipt]
  • smash – smashed – [smašt]

Third, if the last sound of the verb is a voiced consonant or vowel, then the -ed suffix is pronounced as a voiced [d] (d). Voiced consonants are pronounced by vibrating the voice box in the throat. The thirteen voiced consonants in English are [m] (m, me), [n] (n, ne), [b] (b, be), [g] (g, ge), [v] (v, ve), [z] (z, ze), [č] (ch), [w] (w), [r] (r, re), [l] (l, ll, le), [ĵ] (j, dge), [ð] (th), and [ŋ] (ng). All English vowels are voiced. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix – Pronunciation
  • compare – compared – [[kəmperd]
  • ding – dinged – [diŋd]
  • name – named – [nemd]
  • prescribe – prescribed – [priskraibd]
  • seal – sealed – [siəld]
  • watch – watched – [wačd]

*The letters in brackets are the sounds written in the International Phonetic Alphabet followed by some spellings of the sounds in written English.

Writing -ed Words in English

Teaching English language students the rule for adding -ed to words involves learning six spelling rules. First, if the verb ends with the letter e, then remove the final e and add the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • agree – agreed
  • deceive – deceived
  • like – liked
  • tie – tied

Second, if the verb ends with the letter y preceded by a consonant, then change the y to an i and add the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • apply – applied
  • deny – denied
  • pry – pried
  • study – studied

Third, if a verb with one syllable ends with a single consonant other than w or y preceded by a single vowel, then double the final consonant and add the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • drop – dropped
  • hug – hugged
  • pat – patted
  • rub – rubbed

Fourth, if a verb with two or more syllables in which the final syllable is stressed ends with a single consonant other than w or y preceded by a single vowel, then double the final consonant and add the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • admit – admitted
  • concur – concurred
  • format – formatted
  • prefer – preferred

Fifth, if the verb ends with the letter c, then add the letter k followed by the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • frolic – frolicked
  • mimic – mimicked
  • panic – panicked
  • picnic – picnicked

Sixth, for all other verbs, simply add the -ed suffix to the end of the verb. For example:

  • Base – -ed Suffix
  • cancel – canceled*
  • need – needed
  • play – played
  • want – wanted

*Note that the final letter l is doubled in British English even if the stress is on the first syllable of the verb.

Learning how to spell and pronounce -ed words in English requires knowing the rules for adding the -ed suffix to English verbs, which is made easy with this guide about the rule for adding -ed to words. For more information about the English verb system, please read the article All about English Verb Conjugation at Bright Hub