Speaking

Sounds of the Plural S in English

Just like –ed endings there are 3 ways to pronounce the plural –S endings in English. Each of the sounds is elaborated below. Read the article to learn how to pronounce the sounds of the plural S in English.

Sounds of the Plural S in English

There are 3 ways to pronounce the plural of the –S endings in English, depending on the sound of the letter preceding the letter –S in a word. The sounds of the plural –S can be pronounced in three ways: [S], [Z] or [IZ].
The pronunciation depends on the last sound of the verb or noun which is usually a consonant. Before we learn the different ways to pronounce the final -S, we must first know what voiced and voiceless consonants are.

Voiced Consonants vs. Voiceless Consonants

Sounds of the Plural S in English
Sounds of the Plural S in English

Put your hand on the front of your neck and say the sound [t]. What do you feel? You should feel nothing at all, meaning there is no vibration in vocal chords when you say [t], and the letter is a voiceless consonant. 
Now put your hand again on the front of your neck and say sound [D]. What do you feel? You should feel vibration now, that’s because the vocal chords vibrate when you say the sound [D]. This is because it is a voiced sound and this vibration or lack of vibration is what causes the plural “S” to sound like [S], [Z] or [IZ].

Rule 1. The [S] Sound

When the letter before –S has no vibration in the vocal chords then the plural –S will continue the lack of vibration and sound like “S”. Voiceless sounds that cause the plural–S to be pronounced as [S] include: [p, t, k, f].

  • Weeks [Wiyks]
  • Bits [Bits]
  • Books [Books]
  • Briefs [Briyfs]

Rule 2. The [Z] Sound

When the letter before –S has the vibration, the vibration will carry forward and transform the letter –S into a [Z] sound. Voiced sounds that cause the plural –S to be pronounced as [Z] include: [b, d, g, l, r, w, m, n, v, y].

  • Webs [Webz]
  • Beds [Bedz]
  • Bag [Bagz]
  • Bells [Belz]
  • Jars [Jarz]
  • Canoes [Kanuwz]
  • Straw [Strawz]
  • Limbs [Limz]
  • Fans [Fanz]
  • Doves [Davz]
  • Delays [Delayz]

Rule 3 The [IZ] Sound

If the last consonant sound of the word is a sibilant sound (a hissing or buzzing sound), the final S is pronounced as [IZ]. This [IZ] sound is pronounced like an extra syllable. (E.g. the word buses has two syllables). These sounds that cause the plural –S to be pronounced with an additional syllable [IZ] include [tʃ, dʒ, s, z]

  • Watches [Watʃiz]
  • Bridges [Bridʒiz]
  • Judges [Dʒʌ dʒiz]
  • Slices [Slaiysiz]
  • Blazes [Bleyziz]

Note: The sounds of the plural S in English can be important, because it affects to clearly understand speakers. This is especially important when you connect speech, linking sounds and words together.

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