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Frank Gerace

It is not true that English is a completely crazy language. There is a little sense to it. You just have to learn the rules. This article will present one of of the "rules".

You know that it is difficult to know when to pronounce the written letter "s" in English like "s", the sound of air escaping from your bicycle tire, and when to pronounce it as the letter "z", the sound of an angry bee. This problem shows up in the plural of nouns.

In the same way, the written letter "t" sometimes sounds like the letter "d". This problem comes up in the past tense of verbs. There is a logic that is at work in both cases, that of the plural of the noun and that of the past tense of the verb. The two cases have a lot in common even though one has to do with the "s" sound" and other has to do with the "d" sound

There is so much in common that some language teachers say that there is one general "rule" for the two cases. This "rule" works in most of the cases that you will have to learn. In both situations, the ending of the word depends on the sound that it follows

1. If the noun or verb ends in a voiceless consonant (one that doesn't vibrate the vocal cords), like the "p" of soap or the "k" of wink, the result (the plural of the noun or the "s" of the third person singular of the verb) is a voiceless consonant

In the case of the nouns ending in a voiceless consonant, the "s" that indicates the plural of the noun has the sound of the voiceless "s", (tops, tacks, etc.). In the case of the verbs ending in a voiceless consonant, the "ed" that indicates the past of the verb has the sound of the voiceless "t" (flapped, talked, etc

2. If the noun or verb ends in a voiced consonant (one that vibrates the vocal cords, the result is a voiced consonant

In the case of these nouns (tub and lug) ending in a voiced consonant, the "s" that indicates the plural of the noun has the sound of the voiced "s", ( tubs, tugs, etc.). In the case of the verbs ending in a voiced consonant, the "ed" that indicates the past of the verb has the sound of the voiced "d" (rubbed, tugged, etc

3. In both cases, that of the plural of the noun, and that of the past of the verb, a syllable is added when the consonant sound of the last syllable of the noun or verb is pronounced in the same part of the mouth as is the consonant sound of the ending. That is, if a noun ends in any sibilant sound (voiced or unvoiced) like the words mess or buzz, the plural adds a syllable and the plural forms are messes and buzzes.

If a verb ends in the any "t" or "d" sound (voiced or unvoiced) like the words pet or weed, the past tense adds a syllable and the past forms are petted and weeded. The syllable that is added is the vowel sound called the "short i", (the sound of the simple words: it, his, fish, chips) followed by a final voiced consonant, either the voiced "z" sound for the plural noun or the voiced "d" sound for the past of the verb.

Look at the pairs of words in the following table. Words were chosen that are both nouns and verbs so you can see the changes in both parts of speech.

Try to identify the "rule" that applies to each of them. See you need help you can check the the answers at the end of this article.

Voiced
Noun or 3rd Person Singular of the Verb................ Past Form of the Verb

load loads...........................................................load loaded
hose hoses...........................................................hose hosed
turn turns...........................................................turn turned
farm farms...........................................................farm farmed
haze hazes...........................................................haze hazed
weed weeds...........................................................weed weeded
lug lugs.................................................................lug lugged
judge judges...........................................................judge judged

Voiceless
Noun or 3rd Person Singular of the Verb.................Past Form of the Verb

wish wishes..........................................................wish wished
heat heats...........................................................heat heated
fuss fusses...........................................................fuss fussed
talk talks...........................................................talk talked
tape tapes...........................................................tape taped
clutch clutches........................................................clutch clutched
fluff fluffs............................................................fluff fluffed
meet meets...........................................................mete meted

Now that you have learned this "rule", you should try to listen to the differences. Pay attention to the voiced and unvoiced consonants and try to understand why the changes occur.

The pertinent "rules" are:

Nouns
Nouns that end in a voiced consonant sound form the plural with a voiced "s" sound. The words: load, hose, turn, farm, weed, lug, judge are of this type. If the noun ends in a voiced sibilant (hissing or buzzing) consonant sound, a syllable is added, por example, hoses, hazes, judges.

The nouns that end in a voiceless consonant sound form the plural with a voiceless "s" sound, such as the words: wish, heat, fuss, talk, tape clutch, fluff, meet. If the voiceless consonant is a voiceless "s" or similar sound, the plural is formed with an extra syllable, for example, wishes, fusses clutches.

Verbs
Verbs that end in a voiced consonant sound make their plural with a voiced "s" sound. por example, the words: load, hose, turn, farm, weed, lug, judge. If the verb ends in a "d" or "t" sound they add a syllable, for example, loaded, weeded.

The verbs that end in a voiceless consonant sound make their past tense with a voiceless "d" or "t" sound, for example, wish, heat, fuss, talk, tape, clutch, fluff, meet. Verbs that end in a "d" or "t" sound, a syllable is added, for example, heated, meeted.

All readers can find help to improve their North American English accent at: http://www.GoodAccent.com/accentbooks.htm.

Frank Gerace Ph.D has worked in Latin America in UN and national Educational and Communication Projects, and in Bolivian and Peruvian Universities. He currently teaches English in a New York City college. He provides help on accent reduction and the proper American English accent at http://www.GoodAccent.com.

[Edited by Administrator (admin) Wed, 06 Jul 2011, 04:20 PM]

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