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How to pronounce words ending in '-ed'

Most of the time the final -ed on words is not pronounced as its own syllable, but then every once in a while, it is.

This week on That’s What They Say, Host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discuss tricky -ed endings and the history of this suffix’s pronunciation.

Historically, -ed was always pronounced as its own syllable. In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift voiced his desire to preserve the final -ed  in his book, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue. Swift wrote, “By leaving our a vowel to save a syllable, we form so jarring a sound, and so difficult to utter, that I have often wondered how it could ever obtain.”

Nowadays, we rarely pronounce -ed  separately. But what about problematic words that can be pronounced either way, like beloved?

“Usually when it is an adjective, you would say it as two syllables,” Curzan explains regarding beloved. “But if it’s a noun, you would say belov-ed and pronounce it as its own syllable.”

Learned as two syllable is also an adjective, meaning “erudite” or “showing lots of knowledge.” However, learned can be a one-syllable adjective as well when referring to something that has been acquired.

Similarly, the pronunciation of blessed depends on the context. As an adjective it is typically two syllables.

Lastly, the -ed  on striped and short-lived can be pronounced as either one or two syllables.  

Do you agree with Jonathan Swift that we should always pronounce the final -ed

-Clare Toeniskoetter, Michigan Radio News

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