English Pronunciation

The -s, -es, -'s ending Pronunciation

Using the -s, -es ending

There are four purposes for adding -s, -es, or 's to a word:

  • To create a plural noun (cats)
  • To conjugate a verb (snows)
  • To show possession (coach's, coaches')
  • To create a contraction (coach's meaning coach is or coach has)

Note that 's can signal noun possession and the contracted form of the words is and has in spoken English. Sentence context must be used to discern whether coach's means that the coach owns something or that it is a contraction of coach is or coach has. The pronunciation is the same whether the apostrophe is signaling a single owner (coach's) or many owners (coaches').

To simplify this pronunciation lesson, only the apostrophe s ('s) spelling is being used.

Pronunciation of -s, -es, 's ending

No matter the purpose or spelling of the -s, -es, 's ending, the pronunciation guidelines are the same. In English, the -s, -es, 's ending has three possible pronunciations:

  • s sound (hats)
  • z sound (loves)
  • short i+z sound (misses)

1: -s, -es, 's ending pronounced as short i+z sound

Pronounce the -s, -es, 's ending as as short i+z sound when the final sound before the addition of the -s, -es, 's ending is any of the following: s sound, z sound, ch sound, j sound, sh sound, or zh sound.

A syllable is always added to the word when the -s, -es, 's ending is pronounced as the short i + z sound combination.

  Sound Example
1. s sound misses
2. z sound causes
3. ch sound watches
4. j sound changes
5. sh sound wishes
6. zh sound garages

2: -s, -es, 's ending pronounced as s sound

When the final sound of the word is an unvoiced sound (except the sounds listed for pattern #1), the -s, -es, 's ending is pronounced as an s sound. An unvoiced sound does not use the vocal cords during its production. Besides the sounds listed for #1, English has only five other unvoiced sounds that occur at the end of a word:

  Sound Example
1. p sound stops
2. k sound looks
3. t sound cats
4. unvoiced th sound* Earth's
5. f sound laughs

3: -s, -es, 's ending pronounced as z sound

When the final sound of the word is a voiced sound (except the sounds listed for pattern #1), the -s, -es, 's ending is pronounced as a z sound. A voiced sound uses the vocal cords during its production. Since all vowel sounds are voiced, there are far more voiced sounds in English than unvoiced sounds. Besides the sounds listed for pattern #1, English has 14 other voiced sounds that occur at the end of a word:

  Sound Example
1. b sound describes
2. g sound begs
3. d sound words
4. voiced th sound bathes
5. v sound loves
6. l sound calls
7. r sound cures
8. schwa+r answers
9. ar sound stars
10. or sound pours
11. air sound scares
12. m sound dreams
13. n sound rains
14. ng sound belongs

Example -s, -es, 's use in context

The -s, 's, and s' in the word dogs is pronounced identically in all four sentences below. The context of the sentence is necessary to comprehend the meaning of the -s, 's, and s'.

's pronunciation
The dogs were barking all night long. (plural)
The dogs' collars should be replaced. (plural possessive)
The dog's sleeping in the bed again. (dog is)
The dog's been good and deserves a treat. (dog has)

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High-frequency Words: -s, -es, 's ending

Sound Practice

fricative z

fricative s

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