Easy-to-remember rules to pronounce S ES in English

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‘s”, “es” are of the most used ending sounds in English but also a common pronunciation pitfall of ESL learners. This article will detail 3 easy-to-remember rules to pronounce s es in English, which you can apply in all contexts.

3 valid principles

There are 3 ways for pronouncing s es that are always correct in all cases. To apply these 3 rules, you first need to look up the phonetic transcription according to the IPA chart and determine if the word belongs to any of the following cases:

Case 1: Words ending in /f/, /t/, /k/, /p/, /θ/

For example: desks, shops, jolts

Case 2: Words ending in /s/, /z/, /∫/, /t∫/, /dʒ/, /ʒ/

Example: touches, changes

Rule 3: Words ending in the remaining syllables

Example: studies, ladies

Once you’ve categorized which group of words you need to pronounce, just follow these three simple rules to pronounce s es:

Rule 1: Pronounce s with words ending in /f/, /t/, /k/, /p/, /θ/

The ending characters -p, -k, -t, -f and -th are often used for voiceless sounds, according to the phonetic transcription would be /f/, /t/, /k/, /p/ and /θ/. If a word ends in a voiceless sound (when the larynx does not vibrate when speaking), an s sound will be placed at the end.

Some notable examples:

TừNghĩaPhát âm
cupsNhững chiếc cốc/kʌps/
talksNói chuyện/tɑːks/
catsNhững con mèo/kæts/

Rule 2: Pronounce iz with words ending in /s/, /z/, /∫/, /t∫/, /dʒ/, /ʒ/

Words ending in -sh, -ce, -s, -ss, -z, -ge, -ch, -x, called voiceless consonants, often end with the following phonetic transcriptions: /s/, / z/, /∫/, /t∫/, /dʒ/, /ʒ/

Some notable examples:

TừNghĩaPhát âm
boxesNhững chiếc hộp/bɑːksiz/
housesNhững ngôi nhà/haʊsiz/
richesGiàu có/ˈrɪtʃ.ɪz/

Rule 3: Pronounce z with the rest of the words

If the word ends in a voiced sound (you can check by looking up the IPA or touching your throat and feeling for laryngeal vibration), adding s es to the word and we will pronounce them as /z/.

For easy identification, you can use the exclusion with the above two cases. If it does not belong to both of the first two groups, the word would apply the third rule.

Some notable examples:

TừNghĩaPhát âm
findsTìm kiếm/faɪndz/
dreamsMơ mộng, giấc mơ/driːmz/
tagsNhãn dán/tæɡz/
lensỐng kính/lenz/

Mastering the above 3 rules to pronounce e es, you can quickly and accurately apply them in the following situations:

  • Add s es to describe plural nouns: houses, shirts
  • Add s es to conjugate the verb in the second person: she finds something

Along with that, let’s build yourself a motivated environment to practice continuously, you will develop the instinct to react immediately, to recognize the application situations yourself without having to review the theory in your head.

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