Voiced... voiceless

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One problem that many students face in pronunciation is whether a consonant is voiced or voiceless. This lecture should help you understand the differences and give you some simple rules.

What isVoiced?

A simple explanation of voiced consonants is that they use the voice. This is easy to test by putting your finger on your throat. If you feel a vibration the consonant is voiced. Pronounceeach consonant sound (not the letter) and feel the vibration of your vocal chords.

b d th (as in then) v l r z j (as in Jane)

Voiceless consonants do not use the voice. They are percussive anduse hard sounds. Once again, you can test if a consonant is voiceless by putting your finger on your throat. You will feel no vibration in your throat, just a short explosion of air as you pronounce.Pronounce each of these consonant sounds and feel NO vibration in your throat.
p t k s sh ch th (as in thing)

When consonants are put in groups they can change the voiced or voiceless qualityof the consonant that follows. A great example of this is the past simple form of regular verbs. As you know, regular verbs add -ed to the end of the verb in the past simple.
play - played wash -washed live - lived etc.
These past simple verbs all end in '-ed'. However, some of the verbs are pronounced with a voiceless 't' sound and some are pronounced with the voiced 'd' sound. Why? Here arethe rules.

If -ed is preceded by a voiceless consonant sound (p, k, sh, etc.) -ed sounds as a voiceless 't'. Remember that the 'e' is silent.
If -ed is preceded by a voiced consonant sound (d, b,v, etc.) -ed sounds as a voiced 'd'. Remember that the 'e' is silent.
If -ed is preceded by a vowel sound (often 'ay') -ed sounds as a voiced 'd' because vowels are always voiced. Remember that the'e' is silent.
Exception: If -ed is preceded by 't' pronounce a voiced -id. In this case, the 'e' is pronounced

This pattern can also be found with plural forms. If the consonant preceding the...
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