Headbloom Blog

A pronunciation lesson for special adjectives.

Which one of these words is pronounced with two syllables?
baked – raked – faked – naked

Not sure? Here’s another clue: which of these words is not a past-tense verb?

By now, I hope you guessed “naked” as the answer.

This adjective, pronounced /nei-kid/, has a peculiar pronunciation among -ed words in English. Since you began studying English, you learned that the past tense of regular verbs is seldom pronounced with an extra syllable for -ed.* Mostly, we just add a /t/ or /d/ sound to form the past tense. The three other words above are pronounced /beikt, reikt, feikt/. All one syllable. Just add /t/ for the past.

How about these words?
bagged – ragged – tagged – dragged

If you’re a good grammar student, you know the first, third, and fourth words are all verbs. They add only a /d/ sound in the past tense: /baegd, taegd, draegd/. Only “ragged” is pronounced with an extra syllable, /rae-gid/, because it is an adjective.

image naked baby

By now, you may be wondering what other words you have been mispronouncing all your English-speaking career. Luckily, this group is very small. Here is the handful of English adjectives you need to learn to pronounce with an extra syllable.

  • naked = without clothes
  • ragged = worn, torn, with the appearance of rags
  • dogged = strongly persistent, not giving up
  • rugged = tough, strong, rough
  • crooked = not straight
  • wretched = miserable
  • wicked = evil
  • learned = having much education [formal]
  • cross-legged = sitting on the floor with legs crossed
  • three-legged = having three legs
  • blessed = having blessings [formal, religious]
  • aged = elderly [formal]

image rugged mountains

Additionally, a few -ed words gain an extra syllable in pronunciation when they are adverbs.

  • supposedly – has 4 syllables (but supposed has only 2): sup-po-sed-ly
  • markedly – has 3 syllables (but marked has only 1): mar-ked-ly
  • deservedly – has 4 syllables (but deserved has only 2): de-ser-ved-ly
  • allegedly – has 4 syllables (but alleged has only 2): al-le-ged-ly

REMINDER: The one dozen bulleted points above only have an extra syllable as an adjective or adverb. Do not add an extra syllable to the verbs dog, crook, learn, bless, age, suppose, mark, deserve, or allege.

image 3-legged stool

*Only regular verbs ending with -t or -d will have an extra syllable in their pronunciation: rent-ed, mend-ed, elect-ed, attend-ed.

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image wicked witch

Alan Headbloom