The Difference Between T, D and ED Sounds

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Hello English learners! This post is going to be a little different. This post will target pronunciation in the English language. I am going to focus on the t, d and ed sounds.

I hear many students pronounce all of the ed sounds the same. This is WRONG.

There is a difference in the pronunciation for this ending depending on the word.

For example,

  • helped, saved and decided ALL have different ending sounds.

Before I start, I want to say that the key to pronunciation in any language is understanding the anatomy of the mouth.

What I mean is the placement of the tongue, the shape of the mouth, the source of the vibrations and movement of certain organs within the oral cavity.

Each sound from the t, d and ed sounds has a unique and specific anatomical position within the mouth.

Let’s learn the sounds and then when can look at the rules for which words produce those specific sounds.

The T sound

In order to produce this sound your tongue will do most all of the work. It is very important to focus on the position of the mouth as well as the tongue.

Go in front of a mirror or bring one close to your electronic device.

Let’s start with the position of the mouth.

Step 1: Make a BIG Smile (I am not kidding. Pretend that you are very happy to see someone.)

Step 2: Open your mouth a little bit. (Make sure you are still smiling. Your teeth should be showing. Hold this position for all of the steps).

Step 3: Pretend that you are biting a pencil with your front teeth. Your front teeth should be 0.7cm (the width of a pencil) apart.

Now let’s work on the position of the tongue.

Step 1: Cup your tongue like it is trying to hold water. (Make a cup with your hand, like you are trying to hold water. Your tongue should be making the same shape and curves).

Step 2: Place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. (Yes, it still needs to be making the cup shape and you should still be smiling with an imaginary pencil in your mouth.)

Step 3: Move your tongue so that it touches the roof of your mouth and the backside of your top teeth. (The tongue should be touching your front two teeth but on the inside of the teeth, where the gums meet the teeth.)

Step 4: Apply pressure with the TIP of your tongue to the back of your teeth. (The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Now push those teeth!)

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THE TIP OF THE TONGUE MAKES THIS SOUND! That way you get a sharp t sound.

Okay. Good. Now we are ready to make the t sound.

Your breathing is very important in making this sound correctly.

Do you know how you can check to see if your breath is bad or not? (You put your hand in front of your mouth and breathe to get that warm breath.) Don’t blow. Your breath should be hot and not cool or cold.

This is the breathing that you need to make the t sound.

Before you try this, I want you to practice a specific movement with your tongue that you are going to make when producing the t sound.

Movement with the tongue

Step 1: With your tongue in the position described above (behind the front teeth).

Step 2: Make sure the TIP of your tongue is pointed up touching those teeth.

Step 3: The TIP of the tongue will go from pointing up to POINTING DOWN (It will change position.)

In the start position, the tongue will be making a bowl or cup or U shape.

In the end position, the tongue will be making an upside-down bowl or upside-down cup or upside-down U shape.

The movement of the tongue from pointing up to pointing down needs to be moving at the SAME TIME that you are PUSHING AIR out of your mouth. (Do you know the breathing technique I mentioned above? This needs to happen at the same time that your tongue is moving down.)

The sound you are trying to make is the T-A sound.

Practice this. Chances are you won’t get it the first time.

Pay close attention to ALL of the steps above when making this sound!

  • The word helped makes this t sound.

Skype English Lesson with a native AMERICAN or BRITISH teacher ››

The D sound

Again, go in front of a mirror or bring one close to your device.

Let’s start with the position of the mouth.

Step 1: Make a BIG Smile (I am not kidding. Pretend that you are very happy to see someone.)

Step 2: Open your mouth a little bit. (Make sure you are still smiling. Your teeth should be showing. Hold this position for all of the steps).

Step 3: Pretend that you are biting your little finger with your front teeth. Your front teeth should be 1 cm (the width of a little finger) apart. This should be a little wider than for the “t” sound.

Now let’s work on the position of the tongue.

Step 1: Cup your tongue like it is trying to hold water. (Make a cup with your hand, like you are trying to hold water. Your tongue should be making the same shape and curves).

Step 2: Place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. (Yes, it still needs to be making the cup shape and you should still be smiling with an imaginary pencil in your mouth.)

This difference between making the t sound and the d is how much of your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth.

When making the d sound, you need to have more of your tongue making contact with the top of your mouth. The sound will be softer and you won’t make a hard t sound.

Step 3: Move your tongue so that it touches the roof of your mouth and the backside of your top teeth. (The tongue should be touching your front two teeth but on the inside of the teeth, where the gums meet the teeth.)

Step 4: Apply pressure with your tongue to the back of your teeth. (The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Now push those teeth!)

Remember, more of the tongue needs to touch the roof of your mouth when making the d sound.

The SAME breathing that you did for the t needs to be made for the d sound.

Here are the instructions once again:

Do you know how you can check to see if your breath is bad or not? (You put your hand in front of your mouth and breathe to get that warm breath.) Don’t blow. Your breath should be hot and not cool or cold.

This is the breathing that you need to make the d sound.

Before you try this, I want to practice a specific movement with your tongue that you are going to make when producing the d sound.

Movement with the tongue

Step 1: With your tongue in the position described above (behind the front teeth).

Step 2: Make sure the TIP of your tongue is pointed up touching those teeth.

Step 3: The TIP of the tongue will go from pointing up to POINTING DOWN (It will change position.)

In the start position, the tongue will be making a bowl or cup or U shape.

In the finish position, the tongue will be making an upside-down bowl or upside-down cup or upside-down U shape.

The movement of the tongue from pointing up to pointing down needs to be moving at the SAME TIME that you are PUSHING AIR out of your mouth.

(Do you know the breathing technique I mentioned above? This needs to happen at the same time that your tongue is moving down.)

The sound you are trying to make is the D-A sound. This should be softer than the “T-A” sound.

Practice this. Chances are you won’t get it the first time.

Pay close attention to ALL of the steps above when making this sound!

  • The word saved makes this d sound.

Check your Grammar ››

The ED sound

Again, go in front of a mirror or bring one close to your device.

Let’s start with the position of the mouth.

Step 1: Make a BIG Smile (I am not kidding. Pretend that you are very happy to see someone.)

Step 2: Open your mouth a little bit. (Make sure you are still smiling. Your teeth should be showing. Hold this position for all of the steps).

Step 3: Pretend that you are biting your little finger with your front teeth. Your front teeth should be 1 cm (the width of a little finger) apart. This should be a little wider than for the t sound.

Now let’s work on the position of the tongue.

Step 1: Cup your tongue like it is trying to hold water. (Make a cup with your hand, like you are trying to hold water. Your tongue should be making the same shape and curves).

Step 2: Place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. (Yes, it still needs to be making the cup shape and you should still be smiling with an imaginary pencil in your mouth.)

This difference between making the t sound and the ed is how much of your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth.

When making the ed sound, you need to have more of your tongue making contact with the top of your mouth. The sound will be softer and you won’t make a hard t sound.

Step 3: Move your tongue so that it touches the roof of your mouth and the backside of your top teeth. (The tongue should be touching your front two teeth but on the inside of the teeth, where the gums meet the teeth.)

Step 4: Apply pressure with your tongue to the back of your teeth. (The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Now push those teeth!)

Remember, more tongue needs to touch the roof of your mouth when making the “t” sound.

The SAME breathing that you did for the t needs to be made for the ed sound.

Here are the instructions once again:

Do you know how you can check to see if your breath is bad or not? (You put your hand in front of your mouth and breathe to get that warm breath. Don’t blow. Your breath should be hot and not cool or cold.

This is the breathing that you need to make the ed sound.

Before you try this, I want to practice a specific movement with your tongue that you are going to make when producing the ed sound.

Skype English Lesson with a native AMERICAN or BRITISH teacher ››

Movement with the tongue

Step 1: With your tongue in the position described above (behind the front teeth).

Step 2: Make sure the TIP of your tongue is pointed up touching those teeth.

Step 3: The TIP of the tongue will go from pointing up to POINTING DOWN (It will change position.)

In the start position, the tongue will be making a bowl or cup or U shape.

In the finish position, the tongue will be making an upside-down bowl or upside-down cup or upside-down U shape.

The movement of the tongue from pointing up to pointing down needs to be moving at the SAME TIME that you are PUSHING AIR out of your mouth. (Do you know the breathing technique I mentioned above? This needs to happen at the same time that your tongue is moving down.

Movement with the mouth

Step 1: Your mouth will open a little more when making the sound. If you don’t open your mouth a little more when making the sound, you will make the “d” sound and not the sound that you want to produce which is the “ed” sound.

The sound you are trying to make is the I-D sound. This similar to the id sound in DID.

The vowel sound “E” sound needs to come from the back of your mouth. It is almost like you are about to say Ewww like someone said something gross or disgusting.

But instead of a www sound it is interrupted by the D sound.

Practice this. Chances are you won’t get it the first time.

Pay close attention to ALL of the steps above when making this sound!

  • The word decided makes this ed sound.

Here is the part about the rules for which words make which sounds.

Before I go any further, I will give you a tip. It is easier to memorize the more common words that make these sounds than trying to think of the rules for each case.

For those that love rules, here goes.

The T sound

With unvoiced sounds like f, p, s and k the t sound is made.

Here are some examples:

  • worked
  • marched
  • looked
  • helped
  • finished
  • fixed
  • missed
  • laughed
  • liked
  • watched
  • etc.

The D sound

With voiced sounds like z, v, g, b, l, m, n and r the d sound is made.

Here are some examples:

  • banged
  • signed
  • saved
  • honored
  • grabbed
  • played
  • etc.

The ED sound

When a verb ends in d or t the ed sound is made. (Okay, that one was easy)

Here are some examples:

  • decided
  • added
  • graded
  • painted
  • wanted
  • ended
  • etc.

Great work!

If you want some more practice with this and want to hear a native speaker pronounce these sounds and work with you to improve your pronunciation so that people will think that you are a native speaker; then checkout www.myenglishteacher.eu to get some feedback on your pronunciation.

We have some wonderful teachers that want to help you improve!

Check your Grammar ››

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