All You Ever Wanted to Know About the '-ed' Suffix

The English language can be difficult to learn at the best of times, but one of the trickiest things to understand is the use of the -ed suffix. There are several uses for the -ed suffix. These include:

               > Regular verbs in the past tense, e.g. wanted, played, cooked.

               > Many past participles, e.g. closed, finished, annoyed

Knowing when to use the -ed suffix is a challenge in itself, but knowing how to pronounce it can also be tough. Sometimes the -ed is spoken as a separate syllable, but other times it is a continuation of the former syllable. On occasion, it is even sounded as a “t”.

The trick is to be aware of the differences and to put your knowledge to use when speaking.


Pronouncing -ed as a separate syllable

If the root word ends in a “d” or “t” sound, the -ed suffix is added as a separate syllable pronounced “id”. These are the only cases in which -ed makes a separate syllable.


waited, pronounced “wait + id”

wanted, pronounced “want + id”

boarded, pronounced “board + id”

decided, pronounced “decide + id” (note that, even though “decide” ends with the letter “e”, the last sound is “d”)


The dog wait -ed patiently for his walk suffix
The dog waited patiently for his walk.


Pronouncing -ed as part of the previous syllable

All other words have the -ed pronounced as a continuation of the previous syllable

Simple right? Well, that’s not all. This second set of words can be further categorized into two groups: those that where the “d” is pronounced as it is written, and those where the “d” makes a “t” sound instead. For example, the word “looked” sounds as though it ends with a “t”, while the word “loved” sounds the way it is spelled, with a “d”.

These words are separated into those that end with voiced letters, and those that end with voiceless letters. There is simple trick to knowing the difference.


Voiced sounds: “d”

Voiced sounds are those that come from the throat. The common English term for the part of your throat that makes sounds is a “voice box”, so this is easy to remember! Hold your finger to your throat and try saying a few sounds. If you can feel a vibration, it is a voiced sound. Letters such as “l”, “m” and “z” all have voiced sounds. Words with an -ed suffix include:






They all make a “d” sound at the end.


Voiceless sounds: “t”

Voiceless sounds come from the mouth. When you hold your finger to your throat you will not be able to feel a vibration. Letters such as “p”, “f” and “s” are all voiceless. Note that it is the sound of the letter rather than the way it is written that matters. So words such as “laughed” and “sniffed” all have an -ed suffix that sounds like a “t”.


Trying it out

Here are a few example sentences with all three variations of -ed included. See if you can tell which one is which:

               > I waited until she had finished her dinner and then called her over.

               > He laughed at my damaged painting. I decided I hated him.

               > I watched the whole TV show. I loved it and wanted to watch it again.


They laugh -ed hysterically together suffix
They laughed hysterically together.


If you think you understand the -ed suffix, why not go back and remind yourself about past and present tenses. Since most (but not all) of the words mentioned in this post refer to the past tense, it will be useful to increase your knowledge in this area.

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