3 Simple Pronunciation Tips for Past Tense Verbs

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary

Did you know that the -ed of wanted, asked and loved are all pronounced differently in English? 🤯
It sounds difficult and frustrating, I know… But give me 12 minutes of your time and I’ll help you see that the pronunciation rules are easy!

In this pronunciation lesson, I’ll share three simple rules to help you pronounce past tense regular verbs correctly and sound more natural when you speak English!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hello! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Today I want to share an important tip to help you improve your English pronunciation. Actually, I’ll share a couple of tips but they all relate to the pronunciation of past tense regular verbs.

Now the spelling of regular verbs is easy! You just take the regular verb and you add a D or an -ed to the end of the infinitive form. So some examples:

‘want’ becomes ‘wanted’
becomes ‘asked‘
and ‘rain’ becomes ‘rained’

Or if the verb actually ends in a Y, then usually we replace that Y with an I and then add -ed, ‘spied’ and ‘replied’,

But the pronunciation of these simple verbs is not quite that simple but that’s okay we’re going to spend some time today going over three simple rules that you need to remember to help you pronounce these verbs correctly.

But before we get started, I want to ask you a question. Have you subscribed to the mmmEnglish channel yet? Yes? Awesome! Make sure you let me know in the comments so that I can give you a virtual high five just to thank you for support. If you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s so simple! All you need to do is hit that red button just down there. And one more thing, if you haven’t watched my lesson about irregular verbs yet, I’m going to put it up here for you.

Since we’re talking about regular verbs in this lesson, it will be helpful to compare the pronunciation between regular verbs and irregular verbs. So check it out after you watch this lesson. Okay past tense regular verbs. So for regular verbs, the form is the same in the past simple and the past participle forms. Handy, right?

The first thing that you need to know is that there are actually three different ways to pronounce the -ed at the end of a past tense verb. Three.

  1. /ɪd/
  2. /d/
  3. /t/

The good news is there are three simple rules to remember that will help you to pronounce these words correctly. Firstly -ed can be pronounced as /ɪd/ so this is an unstressed vowel sound and it creates an extra syllable which is always unstressed. So the sound is short and it’s low in pitch. And it’s pronounced like this when the regular verb, in its infinitive form, ends in a T or a D sound.

‘need’ becomes ‘needed’
becomes ‘lasted’
becomes ‘pleaded’
‘accept’ becomes ‘accepted’
‘waste’ becomes ‘wasted’
‘wait’ becomes ‘waited’

and ‘wait’ becomes ‘waited’ the extra unstressed vowel sound makes them quite easy to pronounce.


The other two ways to pronounce the past tense regular form don’t include that vowel sound which means that it doesn’t create this extra syllable and it does create a cluster of consonants at the end of the word and as many of you know, a cluster of consonants, that’s a group of consonants, can often be really quite difficult to pronounce. So let’s take a closer look.

When a verb in its infinitive form ends in a voiced consonant sound, we pronounce the -ed at the end of the word as /d/ not /ɪd/ but /d/ There’s no vowel sound there, right?

But what’s a voiced consonant sound? I can hear you asking. Well I’ve already got a lesson that explains this in more detail right here, but I’ll give you the short version right now. These are the voiced consonant sounds.

/g/ as in good
/l/ as in love
/r/ as in red
/v/ as in vet
/z/ as in zoo
/w/ as in well
/n/ as in new
/m/ as in mum
/ŋ/ as in sing, – the -ng at the end
/ð/ as in this
/Ê’/ as in vision
/dÊ’/ as in jam

Right so if the infinitive verb ends in one of these sounds, then the -ed is pronounced as /d/

‘allow’ ending in the /w/ voiced consonant sound becomes ‘allowed’ not ‘allow-ed’. No. This is a really, really common error. It’s not ‘allow-ed’ but ‘allowed’.

It’s not ‘sai-led’ but ‘sailed’


Okay so a quick note on my Australian accent. In Australia, we don’t pronounce the final /r/ consonant sound when it follows a vowel sound. So this is the same for standard British English pronunciation. You can learn more about the differences in accents in this video here where I talk about the differences between American and British English. But this difference in pronunciation, it doesn’t affect the pronunciation rules for past tense regular verbs because vowel sounds are also voiced sounds just like the /r/ sound.

So regardless of whether you pronounce the /r/ or not, the -ed will be pronounced as a /d/ sound like ‘feared’ and ‘feared’. That’s again my excellent, excellent American accent but this also means that if a regular verb ends in a vowel sound like ‘spy’ for example, then the -ed is pronounced as a /d/ as well, ‘spied’ not ‘spy-ed’.

Okay rule number three. When a verb in it’s infinitive form ends in an unvoiced consonant sound, we pronounce the -ed as a /t/ so not /ɪd/, not /d/ but /t/

So that is an unvoiced sound. So again there’s no vowel sound, it’s a single consonant sound that is added to the end of the infinitive verb form so some of the unvoiced consonant sounds are:

/p/ in tape
/s/ in face
/ch/ in watch
/sh/ in wash
/f/ in laugh

Now this can be a little tricky when the verb form already has a cluster of consonants at the end like the /sk/ in ‘ask’ or the /ks/ in ‘relax’

So ‘ask’ becomes ‘asked’, ‘relax’ becomes ‘relaxed’. So these are a little tricky because they have a crazy group of consonants at the end that you’ve got to try and get your tongue around.

Okay a quick review before we practise.

If the verb in the infinitive form ends in the sound /t/ If the verb in the infinitive form ends in the sound /t/
If the verb in the infinitive form ends in a voiced sound, then the -ed is pronounced as /d/
And if the verb in it’s infinitive form, ends in an unvoiced sound, then we pronounce the -ed as a /t/ sound

If you want to improve your pronunciation and sound more like a native English speaker, then you really need to work on pronouncing then you really need to work on pronouncing these past tense verbs correctly. They’re so simple and so common.


Okay, so before we finish, let’s practise with a few sentences because it’s easy to practise these words when they’re on their own, right? It’s much more of a challenge when spoken quickly in a sentence, right?

Have you noticed the verbs here? And have you been thinking about the correct way to pronounce them?


  • She hated to see good food wasted while others starved.

What verbs can you see here?


  • He waited until the ship sailed away and then laughed when he realised he had escaped!

Last one.


I think I misjudged his character. He seemed pleasant and professional when I phoned him yesterday.

Well that’s it for this lesson I’m afraid. I hope that you’ve learned a couple of new pronunciation tips and that you are feeling more confident and sounding more natural when you’re using English.

To keep practising and improving your English pronunciation, then come and try one of my imitation lessons right here. That’s where you’ll get to train by copying a native speaker as they speak.

And of course, subscribe to my channel just down here if you haven’t already and I’ll see you next week for another lesson. Bye for now!

Links mentioned in the video

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