Reading & Writing English: Words Ending In "D"
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different sounds that the letter"d" takes
at the end of a verb in the past tense
extract from the book: Word Power by the author of
The English language indicates that the action of
the verb is in the past by having some form of the "d" or "t" sound end the word. We say some kind of
"d" or "t" sound although the word is almost
always written with a "d".
Many people who learn English are so confused by the
irregular forms of the verbs that they give up and
invent their own ways of referring to the past. Some
say: "Yesterday I walk to work" or other ways to avoid
using the past tense that they have never learned.
Sure, there are irregular words in English. The past
of teach is taught; the past of buy is bought; the
past of think is thought. But even these irregular
words end in some kind of a "t" sound to indicate
that the verb refers to the past. Luckily, there aren't
too many of these irregular verbs. You just have to
learn them. The good thing is that they behave more
or less the same way.
But let's look at the regular verbs. Most English
verbs are regular. To indicate the past, they put
some kind of a sound made with the tongue touching
the back of the upper teeth. Almost always it is the
sound of a "d" or of a "t".
The ending of the verb “love” in the past: “I loved
the movie” is very different from the ending of the
verb “walk”: "I walked to work.” When it sounds like
the letter “d”, it is a voiced sound, that is the
vocal cords vibrate. When it sounds like a “t”, it
is a voiceless or an unvoiced sound.
But how do you know when it should end with a voiced "d" sound and when with a voiceless "t" sound? Although
you may not believe it, there is a "rule" that will
help you to form the past of most English verbs. You
may still make some mistakes but little by little
you will feel the mistakes and will correct them.
The structure of your mouth will force you to make
the right sound.
The "rule" for the formation of the past is similar
to the "rule" for the "s" at the end of plural nouns
and verbs in the third person singlular of the present
The rule of the "d" in three parts:
There is a one simple "rule" that covers the pronunciation
of the "d" and "t" sounds.
The sound that indicates the past of the verb is the
voiceless "t" sound when the verb ends in a voiceless
consonant. On the other hand, the indication of the
past is the voiced "d" sound when the verb ends in
a voiced consonant.
The three parts of the rule are:
1. the voiceless "t" sound,
2. the voiced "d" sound,
3. the added syllable.
1. The voiceless (unvoiced) "t":
The "rule" tells us when the last sound of a verb
is is like that of the words talk, cap, mess, etc
(that is, a voiceless sound), the past of the verb
ends with a voiceless (or unvoiced) sound like that
of the word walked. The past of these verbs is
talked, capped, messed and the "d" is unvoiced.
For example the letter "d" that represents the past
in the written word is pronounced like the "t" of
Tom (a voiceless sound) when the verb ends in a voiceless
sound. So when the verb ends in voiceless sounds such
as the letters k in the word looked, p in
the word stopped, f in the word cuffed (or gh in the word laughed) the past is indicated by the
voiceless "t" sound. This always happens so don't
be fooled by the written letter "d".
The past tense of the verb is also indicated by a
voiceless sound when the verb ends in any "hissing" sound such as the words: face, wash, crunch. All
these sounds are voiceless so the verbs that end with
them will always have the "d" of their past form sounded
voicelessly and therefore become the forms faced,
It is important to note that although the voiceless "d" is written "ed", you do NOT add a syllable to
the original word.
2. The voiced "d":
The "d" is voiced in two situations:
a. when the word ends in a vowel sound such as,
played, teed, owed, cued.
The "strange" vowels are also followed by a voiced
"d" such as in the words: furred, papered, pawed.
The past of verbs ending in a diphthong sound
also end in a voiced "d" sound, for example in the
words: plowed, paid, toyed .
b. when the word ends in a voiced consonant.
Some examples of the second case are: b as
in the word robbed, n in the word drowned,
l in the word mailed, g in the word
logged, v in the word heaved, m n the
word farmed, n as in the word panned, thesoundof
the letters ng as in the word ring, r
as in the word cars, v as in the word stoves,
and thin the word bathed.
Remember that that the voiced "d" sound forms the
past of verbs that end in a voiced consonant, for
example, burned is the past of the verb burn
and lovedis the past of love.
It is important to note that although the voiced "d" in these words is written with "ed", you do NOT
add an extra syllable.
3. The added syllable
In both cases, when the verb ends in either the sound
of the voiced "d" or the sound of the voiceless "t",
the English language adds a syllable to the verb.
For example, the verbs in the present tense visit,
vote, side, need, plant, adopt, add "ed" to make
the past tense and become visited, voted, sided,
needed, planted, adopted.
The "ed" is pronounced with a special vowel followed
by a voiced "d". The special vowel is the "short i" which has the IPA symbol of the small capital “i”.
We treat this sound in the book in the chapter on
the short vowels. Remember a ship is not a sheep.
You have to be able to hear the difference to be able
to use this vowel in the added syllable.
It is only in this special case that you pronounce
the second syllable of the past of a verb. Not all
verbs have two syllables in the past. It is important
that you realize that most common English verbs have
only one syllable. Do not think that you have to pronounce
the "ed" of the words such as walked, talked, played,
tuned, tooled. Do not read these words as they
were written in your language.
Although many verbs have "ed" in their past, it is
just a strange note of English spelling. You often
only pronounce one syllable with the past indicated
by a voiced "d" or an unvoiced "t" according to which
sound preceded the ending.
You only pronounce the "ed" when the root form of
the verb ends with your tongue touching the back of
your teeth, either with a voiced "d" sound or with
an unvoiced "t" sound. For example, "Today, I heat
the coffee but yesterday I heated it" (2 syllables
because the last consonant is a "t"). But, "Today
I talk to my friend but yesterday I talked on the
phone." (one syllable because the last consonant is
not a "t" or a "d")
The extra syllable: Listen to this as often as necessary
for you to be able to distinguish the unvoiced "t"
from the voiced "d".
Review and practice all parts of the “RULE”!
The first part of the "rule": the voiceless "t";
The second part of the "rule": the voiced "d" :
The third part of the "rule": the added syllable
the Author: Frank Gerace Ph.D has worked in Latin
America on UN and national Educational and Communication
Projects, and has taught in Bolivian and Peruvian
Universities. He currently teaches English in New
York City at La Guardia College/CUNY. He provides
resources on accent reduction and the proper American
English accent at http://www.GoodAccent.com
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