Published 27th April 2016

Pronunciation can be tricky for our learners and so it is helpful to point our related rules when they apply. Pronunciation of the regular past simple endings can be problematic for English learners at lower levels but if they notice the rules, they should help them.

Consider the following sentences:

Yesterday I asked my teacher a question.

Last week I played football with my friends.

My mother suggested I go to London to study English.

If you pronouncing those sentences correctly, you will have realised that although there are three regular past simple verbs in the sentences, their endings are all pronounced differently. This can be problematic for English language learners because it seems like you cannot know how to pronounce a word by looking at it.

But, in fact, you can.

With the past simple in English, there are rules regarding the pronunciation of the endings for regular verbs:

If the verb ends in /t/ or /d/, the past simple ending is pronounced /Id/.

If the verb ends in /p/, /f/, /s/, /ʃ/, /ʧ/ or /k/, the past simple ending is pronounced /t/.

If the verb ends in any other sound, the past simple ending is pronounced /d/.

Ok, so that may not be the easiest rule to remember but with enough practise your students should get the hang of it.

To help them out, use categorisation activities and guided discovery so they become familiar with the rules.

First make cards with the present stem of regular verbs and hand these out to your students. Draw three categories on the board related to the different pronunciation endings – /t/, /d/, /Id/. Make sure your students understand the IPA symbols. Let your students categorise them without any interference on your part. When they are done, let them know how many are wrong without actually telling them which ones are the incorrect ones. Give them time to change their answers and continue until they are all correct.

Then, let them think about the rules. By looking at the words in the correct categories, they should be able to come up with the rules for the pronunciation of the endings.

Pronunciation can be tricky for our learners and so it is helpful to point our related rules when they apply. Pronunciation of the regular past simple endings can be problematic for English learners at lower levels but if they notice the rules, they should help them.