How to say the ‘-ed’ sound like a native speaker

Pronunciation is one of the hardest things about learning English. You have practised using the past tense and know that regular verbs add -ed. Writing these verbs is easy, but saying them can be difficult because -ed can have different sounds. Here are the three different sounds and how to know when to use them.


We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in a d or t sound. This /ɪd/ sound makes another syllable at the end of the verb.

  • wanted: “want-id”
  • found: “found-id”
  • ground: “ground-id”
  • land: “land-id”
  • visit: “visit-id”
  • paint: “paint-id”

What counts is the last sound, so even if the last letter of the verb is an e, if it sounds like a d or a t, we add /ɪd/ .

  • taste: “taste-id”
  • waste: “waste-id”
  • promote: “promote-id”
  • code: “code-id”
  • shade: “shade-id”


We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in voiced sounds. A voiced sound is a sound we use our voice box (in the throat) to create. There is a simple test to check if a sound is voiced. Place your fingers across the front of your neck and say one sound or letter. If you feel a vibration in your throat, the sound is voiced. All vowel sounds are voiced. The other voiced sounds are:

  • /b/ “b”
  • /d/ “d”
  • /g/ “g”
  • /ʤ/ “j”
  • /l/ “l”
  • /m/ “m”
  • /n/ “n”
  • /r/ “r”
  • /v/ “v”
  • /w/ “w”
  • /j/ “y”
  • /z/ “z”
  • /ð/ “th” in this
  • /ʒ/ “s” in vision
  • /ŋ/ “ng”

When we add the /d/ sound, there is no extra syllable, so a verb with one syllable still only has one syllable in the past form. Some examples of verbs that ended in a voiced sound and add the /d/ sound are:

  • logged: “log-d”
  • thrived: “thrive-d”
  • advised: “advise-d”
  • planned: “plan-d”
  • called: “call-d”
  • played: “play-d”
  • tried: “try-d”
  • measure: “measure-d”


We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in unvoiced sounds. An unvoiced sound is a sound we do not use our voice box (in the throat) to create. We just use air and the shape of our mouth, tongue and lips to make the sound. If you place a finger across the front of your neck and say an unvoiced letter or sound, there is no vibration. Unvoiced sounds are:

  • /f/ “f”
  • /h/ “h”
  • /k/ “k”
  • /p/ “p”
  • /s/ “s”
  • /t/ “t”
  • /ʧ/ “ch”
  • /ʃ/ “sh”
  • /θ/ “th” in three

If a verb ends with one of the above sounds, we say the -ed as a /t/. Again, we do not add an extra syllable in the past tense, just the /t/ sound. Here are some examples:

  • packed: “pack-t”
  • stopped: “stop-t”
  • missed: “miss-t”
  • watched: “watch-t”
  • wished: “wish-t”
  • mixed: “mix-t”
Extra practice: When you learn new verbs, practise using them in
the past too. Here are more tips on learning vocabulary.

Five common mistakes when learning English

Learning a language is not always easy. There are new words to learn, grammar structures to master and different situations to practise using our new skills. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes when speaking a new language; it’s part of the learning process. I’ve collected five common mistakes when learning English and some tips on how to correct them.

1. If + will/would

If sentences can be confusing. There are lots of different types of if sentences and we can even mix them. However, one important rule is that will or would do not go in the same part of the sentence as if. They do not like each other! Here are some examples:

If I will see her, I will tell her.
If I see her, I will tell her.

If I would get the job, I would be very happy.

If I got the job, I would be very happy.

2. Double past tense

When we make negative sentences or questions in the past tense, we normally use the helping verb did or didn’t. This verb shows we are talking about the past. That means we don’t add -ed or use the past form of the main verb. For example:

I didn’t went to the show.
I didn’t go to the show.

Did you saw the email?
Did you see the email?

More tips on building negative sentences.

3. When to use present perfect

There are several rules that help us to decide if we need present perfect or simple past. Probably the most important one is that we cannot use present perfect with time words that show that something is finished, such as:

  • yesterday
  • last week
  • last month
  • on Tuesday
  • in October
  • in 2017
  • in the morning

Have you gone to the gym yesterday?
Did you go to the gym yesterday?

Has she called the client last week?
Did she call the client last week?

I’ve written on more tips on using the present perfect and past simple here.

4. Negative modal verbs

Modal verbs are special helping verbs. When we make a negative sentence with a modal verb (can, must, may, should, must, might, etc) we do not use don’t. Instead, we just add not after the modal verb.

I don’t can speak Spanish.
I can’t speak Spanish.

You don’t should wear your hat inside.
You shouldn’t wear your hat inside.

Must has special rules!

We don’t must finish the presentation today.
We don’t have to finish the presentation today.
(We can, but it’s not necessary.)

Note: We mustn’t smoke in the office.
(It is forbidden.)

5. Present simple or continuous?

This is a common mistake for both beginners and advanced learners. If an action is repeated, we use simple present. If an action is right now or for a short time around now, we use present continuous.

Every day I’m starting work at 8am.
Every day I start work at 8am.

At the moment I learn Russian.
At the moment I’m learning Russian.

More tips about present tenses can be found here.

Do you have any other tips to help with these topics? What do you find most difficult in English?