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Lesson 14.3

Consonants

Las consonantes
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There are 24 consonant sounds in English; some of these sounds are voiced and others are voiceless. See the chart in the first pronunciation lesson, Letters and Sounds, for the list of voiced and voiceless consonants.

There are 24 consonant sounds in English; some of these sounds are voiced and others are voiceless. See the chart in the first pronunciation lesson, Letters and Sounds, for the list of voiced and voiceless consonants.

Voiced consonants

Voiced consonants use the voice. To better understand what this means you can do a simple test. Put your finger on your throat and if the consonant is voiced, you will feel a vibration in your vocal chords.

Voiceless Consonants

Voiceless or unvoiced consonants are therefore consonants that do not use the voice. Using the same test as above you will find that when saying unvoiced consonant sounds the vocal chords do not vibrate. These consonants generally just produce a short explosion of air as you say them.

Note: The voiced or unvoiced quality of a consonant can change when it is grouped with other letters. Two excellent examples of this are: 1) the pronunciation of regular past tense verbs and 2) the plural form of some nouns.

Regular Past Tense Verbs
As presented in the lesson on the past simple, the “-ed” termination used to form the past simple tense of regular verbs is in fact never pronounced as such. The consonant sound at the end of the verb will determine if the “-ed” termination is pronounced with a voiceless “t”, a voiced “d” or if it is pronounced with a voiced “id”. See the examples below as well as the past simple lesson for more information on the pronunciation of past simple regular verbs.

Regular Past Tense Verbs
As presented in the lesson on the past simple, the “-ed” termination used to form the past simple tense of regular verbs is in fact never pronounced as such. The consonant sound at the end of the verb will determine if the “-ed” termination is pronounced with a voiceless “t”, a voiced “d” or if it is pronounced with a voiced “id”. See the examples below as well as the past simple lesson for more information on the pronunciation of past simple regular verbs.

Examples:

Voiced “d”

 clean/kli:n/
 cleaned/kli:nd/
 live/lɪv/
 lived/lɪvd/

Voiceless “t”

 stop/stɑ:p/
 stopped/stɑ:pt/
 watch/wɑ:ʧ/
 watched/wɑ:ʧt/

Voiced “id”

 end /end/
 ended/endɪd/
 wait/weɪt/
 waited/weɪtɪd/

Plurals
Like the past simple, the sound at the end of a noun, whether voiced or unvoiced, will determine how the plural termination is pronounced. If, for example, the consonant sound at the end of the noun is voiced, the plural termination “-s” will be pronounced as a voiced “z”. On the other hand, if the consonant sound is voiceless, the “-s” will sound like a voiceless “s”.

Examples:

Voiced “z”

 bar/bɑ:r/
 bars/bɑ:rz/
 meal/mi:l/
 meals/mi:lz/

Voiceless “s”

 desk /desk/
 desks/desks/
 seat /si:t/
 seats/si:ts/
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