Whenever we use the past tense in English, we need to make the -ed sound. This can be a tricky sound for any non-native English speakers, since there are three different ways to pronounce it. I know I have struggled with making this sound for a long time, but I can guarantee you this blog post will help you understand more about the pronunciation of this important sound in the English language. Keep reading for ultimate tips and exercises! 

Quick recap: past tense and regular verbs 

The -ed sound is commonly heard when we talk about the past. In order to make a sentence in the past, we need to change the verb to its past form. 

We can divide the verbs into two categories: regular verbs and irregular verbs. When it comes to regular verbs, there are a few rules you need to pay attention to. For the irregular verbs, you need to memorize the past form of the verb — I know it sounds complicated, but you will use them so much that eventually you will know them by heart. Irregular verbs don’t end in -ed, though. 

Regular verbs 

For the regular verbs, such as cook, clean, wash, like, and stop, here are the rules you need to follow. The general rule is to add -ed to the base form of the verb. Examples: watched, played, cleaned.  

If the base form of the verb ends in -e, such as like and arrive, we need to add -d to the verb in order to make the past. Examples: liked, arrived.  

For verbs which end in consonant +y, such as try and study, we need to drop the -y and add -ied to the base form of the verb. Examples: studied, tried.  

girl studying
She studied for the test.

For verbs which end in CVC (consonant-verb-consonant), we need to add -ed to the base form of the verb. Examples: stopped, robbed. 

Adjectives 

Besides the past form of the verbs, we also hear the -ed sound in English in some adjectives, such as tiredexcitedrelaxed, and embarrassed

How do we pronounce the “ed” sound? 

There are three ways to pronounce the -ed sound. Sometimes it sounds like /id/, sometimes it sounds like /t/, and sometimes it sounds as /d/. Let’s go over each one of them! 

The /id/ sound 

Let’s use an example to explain this. Take the word wanted, for instance. Wanted is the past form of the verb want. Want ends with the letter -t, so the -ed is pronounced as a separate syllable. This syllable has an /id/ sound, similar to the sound we make when saying the word kid

The rule here is: if the last letter or the word is -t or -d, we will pronounce the -ed as /id/.  

Here are some other examples of words that end with -t and their past forms, to which we need to add -ed

  • wait / waited 
  • accept / accepted 
  • frost / frosted 
  • point /pointed 
  • suggest / suggested 
  • start / started 

Listen to the words above:

girl pointing
She pointed to the exit.

Now, let’s take a look at some words which end in -d

  • need / needed 
  • attend / attended 
  • avoid / avoided 
  • decide / decided (in this case, we don’t pronounce the -e in decide, so that’s why we consider this a word ending with a -d sound) 
  • intend / intended 

Listen to the pronunciation of the words above:

attending a lecture
They attended the lecture.

The /t/ sound 

For words which end in the sounds -p, -f, -x, -s, -ss, -ch, -sh, -gh, and -k, we need to pronounce -ed as -t. Here are some examples: 

  • stop / stopped 
  • laugh / laughed 
  • sniff / sniffed 
  • promise / promised (in this case, we don’t pronounce the -e in promise, so that’s why we consider this a word ending with a -s sound) 
  • watch / watched 
  • finish / finished 
  • wash / washed 
  • talk / talked 
  • walk / walked 
  • kiss / kissed 
  • fix / fixed 

Listen to the words above:

washing clothes
He washed the clothes.

The /d/ sound 

For all other words, the -ed is pronounced as -d. Check out some examples below: 

  • allowed 
  • cleaned 
  • played 
  • closed 
  • lived 
  • loved 
  • used 

Listen to the words above:

closed restaurant
Sorry, we’re closed.
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Let’s practice! 

Exercise 1

Drag and drop the words into the correct boxes.

Exercise 2 – Which sound do you hear?

Listen to the words and choose the correct option.

Exercise 3 – Speak the words

You must use the Chrome web browser in order for this activity to work. You must also give the website permission to use your microphone. This can be found if you click the 🔒 symbol to the left of the URL address bar.

For more pronunciation tips, make sure to read the blog post we have published on the “i” soundthe “u” sound, and general English pronunciation tips. You can also watch this video for more tips on how to pronounce the -ed sound in English. Happy studying!