Why do we say the past tense suffix -ed three ways?13 Replies
Young children learning to sound out words often write ‘jumped’ as ‘jumpt’ or ‘jumt’. They write the verb ‘filmed’ as ‘filmd’ and ‘landed’ as ‘landud’ or ‘landid’, depending on their accent.
They’re writing what they say/hear, which is great, but English has a special spelling for the regular past tense suffix: -ed. This spelling shows readers that, for example, the intended meaning is ‘packed’ (the bag) not ‘pact’ (between two countries).
But why do we pronounce this suffix three different ways? Why do we also have three pronunciations for regular plural and third person present inflectional suffixes, as in ‘kicks‘ (sounds like /s/), bends‘ (sounds like ‘z’) and ‘wishes‘? (sounds like /es/ or /uz/, depending on your accent). And what’s an inflectional suffix, anyway?
Here’s my third Fun Spelling Facts for Grownups video, in which I try to relate the visible part of our writing system (orthography) to the sounds (phonology) and meanings (morphology) in our spoken language. It’s 7.5 minutes long (yes, I talk too much), but the past tense -ed part is first. Hope it’s useful.