52: Linking from the -ed ending

Fluently linking from the -ed ending is important for listening comprehension and proper articulation


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 52nd episode.

Today I am marking a change in the content I will be teaching in the audio podcasts. The video podcasts will continue working their way through the vowels, then the consonants. The audio podcasts, however, are going to start a focus on the rhythm of English. I've been working on this content for a while now, and in April you will be able to pre-order the book about rhythm and intonation of American English pronunciation. The book is scheduled for release in mid-May.

I want to give a special shout-out to a Pronunican user named Leonardo today. Leonardo has been quite active on Pronuncian and has been doing me a big favor by letting me know when he finds errors on the site. We have a very small staff at Pronuncian, and we really do rely on users to help us keep things clean and accurate. Since Leonardo has helped us out few times now, we've decided that we are going to send him a free copy of the new Rhythm ebook when it comes out in May. Congratulations Leonardo. Now, I told Loenoardo that I'd mention his name today, but I didn't tell him he'd get a free ebook. So, I hope that is a fun little surprise for you, Leonardo.

Also, I want to mention quickly, listen all the way to the end of this show for a 5 dollar coupon code for Pronuncian products.

Today I am going to begin a more detailed discussion about linking than the earlier podcasts got into. This is a rather complicated and advanced lesson. If you are a new listener you may want to go to the transcripts page and find lessons related to this lesson to help you understand today's concepts. You may also want to read the transcripts along with this show to help you understand. Transcripts can be found at www.pronuncian.com.

Let's begin. Linking is why it seems like native speakers are speaking so quickly. For some of you, linking is what still makes understanding spoken English very difficult. Linking is how the end of one words flows into the beginning of the next word. I'll say that again.

Linking is how the end of one word flows into the beginning of the next word.

For you, as non-native speakers, being able to link fluidly will allow your listeners to perceive you as being more fluent, even if your vocabulary and grammar are the same because of the more accurate rhythm your speech will acquire.

The topic today is how to link the -ed ending to the word that follows it. So many of my students do not say the -ed endings of words, and most of them tell me that they do not perceive that native speakers are saying it either. Native speakers generally stay pretty grammatically correct with our -ed endings, so it isn't that we aren't saying them, it is that we link them so fluidly into the word that follows, that is can be hard to hear.

For instance, can you hear the difference between:


I call them
I called them


I'll say those both again.


I call them
I called them


The first sentence is in the grammatical simple present. I - call - them. As in "I call them every Saturday morning." I call them.

The second sentence is in the grammatical simple past. I - called - them. As in "I called them last Saturday, but they weren't home. I called them.

Now, if you need a review of when the -ed ending sounds like a d sound, t sound, or the id sound, go back and listed to Episode 19.

For this podcast, I'm going to talk about what makes the -ed ending so hard to hear. It has to do with the type of sound the d sound is. It is a discontinuous consonant, specifically, it is a stop sound. The t sound is also a discontinuous consonant, and a stop sound. That is an important detail when it comes to linking.

Stop sounds are called stop sounds because, to create them, we stop all the air from leaving our mouth, and then release it with a little puff of air. Stop sounds and affricate sounds both, for a very, very short amount of time, stop the air. We call them discontinuous consonants because they are different at the beginning of the sound than they are at the end. This is different from a continuous consonant, like an unvoiced th sound, which I can say for a long time (held unvoiced th).

Are you still with me? This really is important for fluid speech. We have two major categories of consonant sounds: discontinuous consonants and continuous consonants. Sounds like the d sound and t sound are discontinuous consonants (d sound, t sound), sounds like th and sh and f and v are continuous consonants. (unvoiced th, sh sound, f sound, v sound)

Here's why this is important.

When I want to link a discontinuous consonant to a continuous consonant or a vowel sound the puff of air at the end of the first sound gets taken over by the sound that follows it.

So, in our phrase "called them" the d sound of the word "called" was stopped by my tongue, but when I released the d sound, the th sound of the word them immediately began. The d sound was not fully said. The air was stopped like a d sound, but released as a th sound.

Listen closely




If I were to fully release the d sound instead of blending it to the th sound, it would have sounded like this:


called them


instead of like this:




Did you hear how it almost sounded like an extra vowel was between the words when I fully said the d sound? I'll say it again.


called them


To most of you, it would have sounded much clearer. It would have been easier to understand. Unfortunately, however, we don't break the words apart like that.

Here's another example, this time with an -ed ending that ends in a t sound, the word washed. Don't forget, because the sh sound is unvoiced, the -ed will sound like a t sound.

I'm going to say a sentence in the simple present, then the simple past. Listen carefully.


We wash my car.
We washed my car.


Could you hear that teeny-tiny t sound in the second sentence? I'll say both sentences again.


We wash my car.
We washed my car.


It is hard to hear because the air at the end of the t sound gets blended with the m sound of the word my.

We washed my car.

It isn't just the t sound and d sound of the -ed ending that get linked to the words that follow in this way. All stops link like this.

Here is an example with the word don't




here's another link from a t sound


aren't saying


And here's a sentence:


Don't think we aren't saying the t sound.


Let's practice some sentences with the -ed ending. All of these sentences will be in the simple past. If you are reading the transcripts, the other links from discontinuous consonants are also marked. Repeat after me if you can.


We asked_my friend_for a ride_home.
Leroy wondered_if she'd_like some chocolate.
Carry spilled_the cup_of milk_on the floor.
Everybody looked_for the lost_puppy.
It sounded_like_a good_idea.


There are a number of linking lessons that have been added to Pronuncian.com lately. If you haven't checked out that section of the website lately, I'd encourage you to go look at it.

Also, people who have subscribed have additional linking practice exercises available to them. Those people are able to mark listening exercises that have been practiced, or that they would like to go back and practice again. Subscribers also have access to the new -ed ending quiz AND the -ed ending linking quiz that was recently created. It can be found as a link on the bottom of the -ed ending lesson as well as at the bottom of the linking discontinuous consonants lesson. I'll link to those lessons from this transcript page.

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That's all for today, everyone. Whew, I know this was a long, and kind of complicated show. Go to Pronuncian to view the transcripts and free lessons if this was a tough concept for you. Be bold, and practice your linking!

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening.