A1 · A2 · B1 · B2 · Listening · phonetics

/id/ /d/ or /t/ in regular past verbs?

Thinking_chimp

One of the typical problems learners of English frequently come across is how to pronounce the endings in regular past English verbs. When I mean regular I mean all the ones that end in -ed/d like ‘walk>walked’, ‘study>studied’. There are actually some simple rules that  will help students get this right almost all the times.

Rule number one: careful not to pronounce the final -ed

It is very unusual to pronounce an ‘e’ before a ‘d’ in a past simple tense unless the consonant before the final -ed ends in either a ‘t’ or a ‘d’ (we’ll see this in a minute). So the past sound of final -ed in a verb like ‘designed’ would sound like  /dɪ ‘zaind/ and not  /dɪ ‘zained/.

Rule number two: pronouncing the final -ed and making it sound like an /id/

Verbs that end in a ‘d’ or ‘t’ do sound the final -e. Why? Because if you don’t sound it, you won’t be able to distinguish the difference between a present and a past tense. See this for yourself by saying the following  verbs without pronouncing the ‘e’.

  • start > started */sta:t/
  • depart> departed */depa:t/
  • exceed> exceeded */ek’si:d/

Was it easy? Could you hear the difference between the present and  past? Actually, these verbs  should sound /sta:tid, dipa:tid, ek’si:did/.

You may have noticed that what actually comes out of your mouth isn’t exactly an -ed sound. Instead of this, you get an /id/. Well, this is basically because when people pronounce the final /d/, it is in the upper part of their mouths which is almost the same place as where the /i/ is pronounced. If you really want to make your final -ed sound like an -ed and not an -id, you’d have to sort of stop in the middle of the word, lower your tongue and focus really hard on it, which looks and sounds quite strange (and if you don’t believe me, try doing this in the mirror and see what you look like. Ha, ha, ha!!!).

Rule number three. Getting your ‘ts’ right

Pronouncing a /t/ instead of a /d/ isn’t a matter of choice. Rather it is due to the final sound in the word.  If the final sound in the verb happens to be an unvoiced consonant like a ‘k’ or a ‘p’ or a ‘sh’, for instance, you’re are going to get that very English /t/ sound whether you like it or not. If you happen to get a ‘d’ sound instead, it probably means that you’re pronouncing the -e  which isn’t correct.

So, with verbs like ‘walk’, work, flap, burp,  should sound /wɔ: kt, wɜ:kt, flæpt, bɜ:pt/ when saying them in the simple past.

Lets do some listening activities to grasp the ideas we’ve just explained.

  • Not making the -e sound in all verbs that do not have a ‘t’ or ‘d’ ending. And, not making that -ed sound like a ‘t’ because the last sound is voiced (meaning that the vocal chords are vibrating).

glue> glued –  listen> listened – cry>cried – hug>hugged – curve>curved

  • When we MUST pronounce the -e in past tenses. TIP: when the last consonant is either ‘t’ or ‘d’. Listen to these verbs in the present tense and try to guess how they would sound in the past simple.

start – waste – flirt – imitate – affect – import 

  • Last one! Now the ‘t’ sound. This happens when the last sound of the verb is silent (no vibration of vocal chords). We have quite a few and we can’t always trust writing as some of you will already know that English sounds don’t always correspond to the written form of a word.

Try to figure out what these words would sound like in the past simple before you listen to the audio.

finish – flash – cup – laugh – wash – watch – ice – hack – work – walk

culture · Learning English with songs

Midnight Oil ‘Beds are burning’

I was listening to this song launched in 1987 by the Australian rock band Midnight Oil, when I realised that it would be a nice way to introduce the use of present continuous with ‘when and while’  for low levels of English, along with a bit of English and Australian history to explain the meaning of the song (for higher levels). The single, which belongs to the album Diesel and Dust, hit the charts in many countries, however, few were aware that it was a  protest song in support for giving the native Australian people their lands back.

In order to understand this, we’d have to refer to the issue of colonisation, concretely, British colonisation that came into existence during the sixteenth century by the hand of Henry VII. By the time the nineteenth century had arrived, a vast list of territories had been placed under the Crown (or should I say grabbed and forced under it?). Colonisation had actually little or nothing to do with ‘helping the world to become a better place’ as Kipling’s poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ claims. Rather than this, it was mainly a matter related to economic interests.

Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania came under British rule in 1770 when Captain Cook happened to discover the coast of Australia and claimed it for Britain, however, it must be said that the first European sightseeing of Australia had been by the Dutch.  Up to that moment, the British had been sending their prisoners to the American Colonies, but after the independence of the these, this was no longer possible. One day, some bright spark suggested sending them to Botany Bay (New Wales, Australia) and in 1788, Britain started sending boatloads of convicts to the newly acquired territories. Years later, on gaining their freedom, the British prisoners could not go back to Britain as they lacked the means to do so, and they had nothing to look forward to in their mother country, so they started settling.

As the living conditions for the British colonisers improved, word went round that Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania could offer a better life and farming opportunities to the landless surplus population of the British Isles, resulting in the immigration of thousands of British families. This not only meant important changes to the environment, but also to the lives of the native people who were gradually being forced towards unwanted areas.

It wouldn’t be too long when the white population would heavily outnumber the native people and conflicts on issues such as the distribution of land and the establishment of a common language would result in ethical and political conflicts. Soon, relocation laws were past along with others that aimed to eradicate the indigenous culture through the prohibition to speak native languages and the infamous practice of removing children from their homes to be brought up by white families (Stolen Generations).

Midnight Oil is singing against such policies and is denouncing situations such as the relocation of the Pintube, who in 1984 were forced to leave their traditional way of life. So, the song  means much, much more that a chorus to sing to while headbanging and having a couple of beers. It conveys a message related to human rights which have too easily been ignored and silenced throughout times. Beds are Burning discusses these issues through Peter Rober Garret’s extraordinary voice, who not only is a musician, but also an environmentalist, activist and politician.

You may want to see some comments left about this song on the following link.

http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/16526/

Useful links

Some really useful links to improve your English

Lexipedia

Lexipedia

 

Imagine getting a mind-map on synonyms and related words just after typing in any word. That is exactly what lexipedia does and it is a perfect way to learn more vocabulary while improving your English.

http://www.lexipedia.com

English Central

Here you will find a very inspiring website to help you with your listening skill, no matter what level you are in. It’s free but you’ll need to register with your email address.

https://es.englishcentral.com

Ozdik

Use collocations like a native speaker. With over 150,000 collocations listed, this site will keep you busy for hours while you enjoy learning.

http://www.ozdic.com

English listening

This site will help you with listening. There’s an online listening test available if you want to know your listening comprehension level. It also provides learners with options of different types of English pronunciation.

https://www.englishlistening.com/