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Past verbs in English are crazy! So many irregulars to memorize, and you can never remember the right ed pronunciation!

Pronounce these words to yourself right now. Then listen to see if you pronounced them right:

  • Wanted
  • Watched
  • Hated
  • Jumped
  • Added
  • Used

How did you do?

The problem is that most of the time the «e» in the -ed is silent, but many times it’s not! Even my advanced students tend to mess this up, and it sounds awful when people make these mistakes!

Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember how to say these words, and you’re about to learn it!

Remember this one important rule

The «e» is always silent in the -ed unless the verb ends with a «t» or «d» sound

That’s it!

For example, these verbs all end with a «t» or «d» sound. So you always pronounce the «e» in the past tense:

  • Wait => Waited
  • Heat => Heated
  • End => Ended
  • Vote => Voted
  • Trade => Traded

Notice how «vote» and «trade» actually end in «e», but when you pronounce them, the last sound you hear is «t» or «d».

Examples of words that don’t end in «t» or «d», so in the past tense the «e» is silent:

  • Cooked
  • Finished
  • Tried
  • Loved
  • Joined
  • Closed

But aren’t there more rules?

You might be saying, «But Chris, it’s not that simple! There are more rules!»

And you’re right. But for now, keep it simple! Practice this rule until it becomes natural for you! Your English will sound so much better. Then come back and and practice more rules.

A problem I see with my students is that they try to memorize all the rules at once and always get confused. This doesn’t have to be confusing. I’ll explain the other rules now, but don’t worry about them until you’ve mastered this one rule I just explained!

Now, if you’re ready to improve even more, here are the more complex rules:

Rule 2: The «ed» is actually pronounced «id«

It sounds like the «id» sound in «kid» or «did.»

So «wanted» actually sounds like «wantid.» «Ended» like «endid,» etc.

Rule 3: The «ed» is pronounced like a «t» for verbs ending in voiceless sounds

What’s a voiceless sound? Basically a sound you make without your throat (for example «P», which you pronounce with your lips).

Some examples of voiceless sounds:

  • P as in «helped»
  • K as in «looked»
  • F as in «laughed» (the GH here sounds like F)
  • SH as in «wished»
  • SS as in «kissed»
  • C as in «danced»
  • X as in «fixed»

The «ed» is pronounced like a normal «d» for voiced sounds (basically everything else).

Some examples with voiced sounds:

  • L as in «called»
  • N as in «cleaned»
  • R as in «offered»
  • G as in «damaged»
  • V as in «lived»
  • S as in «used»
  • Z as in «amazed»
  • B as in «rubbed»
  • M as in «claimed»

So there you have it! All the main rules for pronouncing regular past verbs! If this looks like a lot to you, remember my advice: just concentrate on the first, most important rule. You may find the others will come to you naturally as you improve.

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