A Final Education: Final ‘ed’ pronunciation of past tense regular verbs

19698593 - woman with question mark on blackboard As many ESL learners have discovered, English pronunciation can be messy, confusing and downright frustrating. Questions often arise as learners begin to see the illogical nature of how we say words. Have you ever wondered why “food” and “good” don’t rhyme? Or maybe why “meet” and “meat” sound the exact same way but are spelled differently? As a native English speaker, I have no clue as to why these peculiarities exist. On the other hand, due to my experience as an ESL teacher I may be able to offer some help with certain aspects of English pronunciation.

Regular verbs are easily conjugated in the simple past tense by adding “ED”. For example, the verb “to walk” becomes “walked”, as in: “I walked to the store yesterday afternoon. The verb “to live” becomes “lived”, as in: “Sally lived in Los Angeles for two years after college.” And finally, the verb “to select” becomes “selected”, as in: “The group selected John to be the spokesperson for the meeting.” This is easy enough when it comes to writing in English. Yet, the problem for ESL learners occurs when they must speak and/or read aloud in English. As we will see, there are three separate ways for pronouncing the final “ED” of regular verbs in the simple past tense.

Below you will find an easy and effective way to determine which of the three ways is necessary to pronounce the verb correctly and, more importantly, speak with fluidity and confidence!

I. Final ‘ED’ as [t]

The verb “to walk” ends with the letter “k [k]”. This is an unvoiced sound as most of its sound is air and does not begin in the throat. To get an idea, place two fingers on your throat and make the [k] sound a few times. Notice that your vocal chords do not vibrate a great deal? This occurs because [k] is an unvoiced sound. Now, keep your fingers on your throat and say the “walk” a few times. You will again notice that the vocal chords only vibrate a small amount. So, with the verb “walked”, the final “ED” sounds like a [t]. It’s really easy- just say it like this: “walkt”. This is true with all regular verbs in the past tense that finish with an unvoiced sound. What are some other unvoiced sounds? Here they are:

  1. K [k]: ‘ed’ as in [t]
    1. walk walked “walkt”
    2. talktalked “talkt”
    3. look looked “lookt”
    4. ask asked “askt”
  2. P [p]: ‘ed’ as in [t]
    1. hope hoped “hopt”
    2. help helped “helpt”
    3. tap tapped “tappt”
    4. cap capped “cappt”
  3. F [f]: ‘ed’ as in [t]
    1. stuff stuffed “stufft”
    2. laugh laughed “laught”
  4. S [s]: ‘ed’ as [t]
    1. kiss kissed “kisst”
    2. miss missed “misst”
  5. Ch [tß]: ‘ed’ in [t]
    1. watch watched “watcht”
    2. search searched “searcht”
  6. Sh [ß]: ‘ed’ as in [t]
    1. wash washed “washt”
    2. wish wished “wisht”

II. Final ‘ED’ as [d]

These regular verbs end with a voiced sound– like the verb “live”. Again, place two fingers on your throat and say “live”. Do you feel how your vocal chords vibrate on the final “v”? This occurs because it is a voiced sound. All regular verbs in the past tense that end in a voiced sound, are pronounced as [d] in the past tense. For example, “livelivedlivd”. Pretty easy, right? Ok, let’s take a look at the other regular verbs that are pronounced like this in the past tense:

  1. V [v]: ‘ed’ as in [d]

a. live lived“livd”

  1. believebelieved“believd”
  1. B [b]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. rub rubbed“rubbd”
    2. curb curbed “curbd”
  1. G [g]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. hug hugged“hugd”
    2. drag dragged “draggd”
  2. J [ʒ]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. judge judged“judgd”
  3. L [l]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. kill killed“killd”
    2. fill filled “filld”
  4. M [m]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. roam roamed “roamd”
  5. N [n]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. can canned“cannd”
  6. NG [ŋ]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. hang hanged “hangd”
    2. long longed “longd”
  7. R [r]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. remember remembered “rememberd”
    2. score scored “scord”


  1. Th [ð]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. breathe breathed “breathd”
    2. bathe bathed “bathd”
  2. Z [z]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. buzz buzzed “buzzd”
  3. Vowels [a, e, i, o, u, y]: ‘ed’ as in [d]
    1. continue continued “continud”
    2. play played “playd”

654292 - a rockstar screaming into a mic.

III. Final “ED” as “ED”

Now that we understand nuances of both the voiced and unvoiced endings and the past tense pronunciations that they create, let’s now look at the final and easiest way to pronounce the final “ED” in the simple past tense of regular verbs. If the verb ends in either [t] or [d], then the final “ED” is fully pronounced. There is no need to determine if it is voiced or unvoiced. This one is cut and dry, plain and simple. So, a verb like “select” simply becomes “selected” [se.lek.ted]. Take a look at the verb “need”. This one becomes “needed” [nee.ded]. See, isn’t that easy?


  1. T [t]: final ‘ed’ as in ‘ed’
    1. select selected “selected
    2. twist twisted “twisted
  2. D [d]: final ‘ed’ as in ‘ed’
    1. need needed “needed
    2. load loaded “loaded


At first, it may seem a bit overwhelming trying to determine if the final sound of the verb is voiced or unvoiced. Just practice a little bit everyday as you read in English and, if you need to, remember that you can place two fingers on your throat to determine a voiced (vocal chords vibrate) or unvoiced (vocal chords DO NOT vibrate).





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