speaking englishSpeaking English may be difficult for beginners. One confusing thing about it is the different sounds the letter “d” takes at the end of a verb in the past tense. When speaking, you will know a verb is in the past tense if it has some form of “d” or “t” sound at the end of the word. A couple examples would be the words “loved” and “walked,” that end with a “d” and “t” sound, respectively.

To make things even more difficult, there are also irregular words once it comes to speaking English in the past tense. For example, the past of teach is taught; the past of buy is bought. But even these irregular verbs may end is some kind of a “t” sound. Luckily, there aren’t too many of these irregular verbs, and they behave in more or less the same way.

Many who have just started speaking English get so confused that they end up inventing their own ways to refer to the past. Some of these beginners may say: “Yesterday, I walk to work.” They may also avoid speaking in the past tense altogether.

Let’s concentrate on the regular verbs as most English verbs are regular. To indicate the past when speaking English, a “d” or “t” sound is used. The tongue has to touch the back of the upper teeth to make these sounds when speaking. To use the examples given earlier, the sound that the letter “d“ makes in “loved” and “walked” are different. Someone speaking English may say the sentences “I loved the movie,” or “I walked to work.” If you listen to a natural, you will find that the letter “d” in “loved” has a “d” sound, while the letter “d” in “walked” has a “t” sound. When speaking, the “d” sound is a voiced sound. Being a voiced sound means that the vocal cords vibrate when pronouncing these sounds. The “t” sound, on the other hand, is a voiceless or unvoiced sound.

But how will you know when to use the voiced “d” sound or the voiceless “t” sound? For beginners in speaking English, there is a “rule” that will help you form the past tense of most English verbs. The voiced “d” is used in the past tense if the verb ends in a voiced sound. On the other hand, the voiceless “t” is used if the verb ends in a voiceless sound. Those not too experienced may make mistakes, but you will be able to correct these over time.

The voiced “d” in speaking English

The “d” is voiced in two situations:

a. When the verb ends in a vowel sound, including “w” and “y”

When speaking English, this can be seen in the words played, teed, owed and cued. “Strange” vowels are also followed by a voiced “d” such as the words furred, papered and pawed. Also, the past of verbs ending in a diphthong also use the voiced “d” as in the words plowed, paid and toyed.

b. When the verb ends in a voiced consonant such as b, d, g, v, th, sz, j, l, m, n, ng and r

Some examples of the second case when speaking English are: b in the word robbed, n in the word drowned, l in the word mailed, g in the word logged, v in the word heaved, m in the word farmed, n in the word panned, and th in the word bathed.

It is important to note that although the voiced “d” in these words is written with “ed”, you do not add an extra syllable.

The voiceless/unvoiced “t” in speaking English

The letter “d” added to a verb that represents being in the pest tense is pronounced with a “t” sound when the verb ends in a voiceless sound, as in the sounds p, t, k, f, gh, s, th, sh, ch and h. Examples of these when speaking English would be t in the word talked, c in the word capped, s in the word messed, k in the word looked, p in the word stopped, f in the word cuffed, and gh in the word laughed. The past tense of the verb is also indicated by a voiceless sound when the verb ends in any “hissing” sound such as the words: faced, washed, and crunched. This always happens so don’t be fooled by the written letter “d”.

It is important to note that although the voiceless “d” is written “ed”, you do not add a syllable to the original word.

The added syllable

In both cases, when the verb ends in either the sound of the voiced “d” or the sound of the voiceless “t”, a syllable is added to the verb. You only pronounce the “ed” when the root form of the verb ends with your tongue touching the back of your teeth.  This happens either with a voiced “d” sound, or with an unvoiced “t” sound. For example, the verbs visit, vote, side, need, plant, and adopt, add an extra syllable “ed” when referred to in the past tense. These words now become visited, voted, sided, needed, planted, and adopted. The “ed” is pronounced with a special vowel followed by a voiced “d”. This special vowel is the “short i,” which has the IPA symbol of the small capital “i.”

It is important to realize that when speaking in English, most common verbs do not have an added syllable when in the past tense. It is only in these special cases that you pronounce the added syllable. Although the same letters “ed” are added to words such as walked, talked, played, tuned, and tooled, there is no added syllable


Speaking English may be difficult and confusing for beginners. This is true for anyone who is learning a new language. Especially once it comes to pronouncing words in the past tense, the different “d” at “t” sounds may be hard to figure out. However, all you have to do is take note of the voiced and voiceless sounds at the end of verbs, and speaking English will be a breeze.

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