How do you pronounce regular verbs in the past tense?


What is the rule for using the T sound in the word walked and the ID sound in the word painted?

The conjugation of regular verbs into the past tense is relatively straight forward, you simply add -ed to the infinitive form of the verb. For example:

  • play becomes played
  • stop becomes stopped
  • walk becomes walked
  • kill becomes killed

It’s the pronunciation that a lot of English learners can find confusing or challenging. It seems strange that even though played, painted and stopped end with the same letters that they don’t sound the same.

  • played sounds like playD
  • painted sounds like paintID
  • stopped sounds like stopT

Below I will show you pronunciation rules that will help you pronounce regular verbs in the simple past tense.
Normally when we add -ed to the infinitive, the amount of syllables in the word remains the same. So played has one syllable, stopped has one syllable, watched has one syllable, laughed has one syllable, an extra syllable is not added to most of past tense verbs.
BUT if the verb ends in a T or D sound an extra syllable is added. Take a look at the examples below:

Most Common VERB NOUN Collocations 🍦

Most Common VERB NOUN Collocations ...
Most Common VERB NOUN Collocations 🍦
  • Decide ends with a D sound and has two syllables. When conjugated decide becomes decided and an extra syllable is added; de/ci/ded. It sounds like decidID
  • Skate ends with a T sound and has one syllable but when it is conjugated an extra syllable is added; skat/ed. It sounds like skatID
  • Paint ends with a T sound and has one syllable, when it is conjugated into the simple past painted it has two syllables; pain/ted. It sounds paintID.

MOST conjugated verbs end with the subtle D sound such as played, stayed, smiled, remembered, amazed, entered, etc.
BUT verbs that that end with CH/SH/K/S/P/F such as laugh, watch, walk, look, etc. sounds are different. When these verbs are conjugated the ed suffix sounds like the T sound. For example:

  • Laugh in the simple past is laughed but is pronounced with a T sound at the end; laughT.
  • Watch is the past tense is watched and pronounced like this; watchT.
  • Walked is pronounced like walkT.
  • Looked is pronounced like lookT.

Keep in mind that an extra syllable is not added to the examples above. The only time a syllable is added is if the verb ends with a T or D sound.

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