Pronunciation of past simple verbs

This is an activity to help students consider the differences in pronunciation of regular past verbs.

Marta J. Sabbadini

The activity allows students to find the solutions themselves, making the language more memorable. My students particularly enjoy it as everybody has a chance to try out the sounds, whilst I can step away from the board and observe the class at work.


You will need to produce a set of around 12 cards, with a (regular) past simple verb on each. Make sure they're large enough to be seen from the back of the room. You can find an example below.


  • Start by holding up the cards for students to say what the words have in common. Once they've identified that they're verbs, past simple and regular (i.e. all with '-ed' endings), drill the verbs.
  • Then write up three categories on the board:
    -ed = /t/ -ed = /d/ -ed = /Id/
    liked learned wanted
  • Point out that these represent different sounds and ask the class to read them out. Then show the first card, e.g. liked and ask students to say it aloud and decide which category it goes in.
  • Once they indicate the correct category, stick the card to the board. Repeat this for a second card, e.g. wanted.
  • Then elicit that the two verbs, like and want, have the same past simple ending, but the pronunciation is different. Tell the students that you're going to give them the cards to put in the right category. Depending on the size of the class, hand out two cards per pair or group.
  • You can then sit at the back of the class and observe as the students decide where their verb goes. Remind students to say the verb aloud to help them.
  • Usually, within minutes, one of the more confident students goes to the board; the others soon follow.
  • Once you feel students have done what they can, tell them how many verbs are not placed correctly, e.g. three, but don't tell them which ones. Encourage students to make changes, then again tell them how many are now not correct. Continue until all the cards are in the right place, helping where necessary.
  • Then ask the class to read all the verbs aloud. Praise them for successfully completing the task!
  • With older or more analytically-minded students, the rule for when the verb is pronounced /Id/ (i.e. when the verb already ends in a /t/ or /d/ sound) can now be elicited.
  • Students then have a few minutes to copy their work into their notebooks, adding one verb of their choice to each category.
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