144: -ed ending exceptions

Some -ed adjectives gain a syllable.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 144th episode.

Ngoc, A Vietnamese user on the English Assembly forums, brought up a question about adjectives that end in -ed that do not follow the typical -ed ending patterns. Simply put, the -ed ending patterns state that the -ed will be pronounced as a d sound when it follows a voiced sound (as in the word loved, a t sound when it follows an unvoiced sound (as in the word liked), and short i plus d sound when it follows an d sound or a t sound (as in the word needed).

When the short i plus d sound pronunciation in used, the word gains a syllable. For instance, the past of to need is needed. The word need is one syllable, and needed is two syllables.

Adding only a d sound or a t sound for the -ed ending will not cause an added syllable. For example, the words love and like are one syllable, and so are loved and liked.

So, if we have this very nice pattern to follow, what is going on with the words wicked, crooked, learned, ragged, and blessed? Why are those words pronounced with two syllables instead of one? Uh-oh, is something wrong with our pattern that says that only words that end in a t sound or d sound are supposed to have an added syllable?

Well, two things are going on here. First, these words are obviously exceptions to our pattern and, sorry, but their pronunciation should be memorized. There is something exceptional about these exceptions, though. They are all adjectives. Now, this does not mean that the -ed ending patterns only work for verbs and that all adjectives that end in -ed gain a syllable. These words are still exceptions because most adjectives still follow the pattern listed at the beginning of this podcast.

Grammatically speaking, the -ed ending usually forms the past participle of a word, and the past participle can be used to conjugate verbs and create adjectives. With some of these odd adjectives that don't follow the typical -ed ending patterns, you need to be careful, because the verb-forming past participle does follow the pattern.

The two sets of past participles that you are most likely to hear in adjective form and verb form are the adjective learned and the verb learned and the adjective blessed and the verb blessed. If you work in a science field, you might also hear the verb wicked, but for most of us, the adjective form of wicked is more common. Listen to all six of these words in sentences:


  1. learned (adj): The learned doctor spent 10 years in medical school.
  2. learned (v): The doctor learned all the details of human anatomy.
  3. blessed (adj): The blessed event filled the family with joy.
  4. blessed (v): The priest blessed the child shortly after she was born.
  5. wicked (adj): I didn't trust his wicked grin.
  6. wicked (v): The water wicked up the piece of cloth.


Remember, besides learned and blessed and wicked, the words crooked and ragged are also two-syllable adjectives. Yes, they also have one-syllable verb forms, but they really aren't used very often.

To help you remember, I'm going to say all five adjectives and give you time to repeat after me.




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