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Refer the section called "Pronunciation Features" in this page. In that section, you can find this sentence "Interestingly, mist and missed are pronounced exactly the same in English". Really? I don't pronounce both of them the same way.

  • Mist - I pronounce this as "mĭst"
  • Missed - I pronounce this as "mĭsd"

Am I wrong? Should I pronounce both of them exactly the same?

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Now I'm curious -- what is your native language? –  leoger Feb 15 '14 at 2:15
They are not only pronounced identically; until English orthography stabilized in the late 17th century they were often spelled identically: OED reports miste, mist, and myst for both. –  StoneyB Feb 15 '14 at 3:03
I'm unable to even imagine how "misd" could sound, if not exactly the same as "mist". I tried for a while to pronounce "misd" differently but it made the "s" sound like a "z", or the "d" sound like a "der" (as in, "mister"), which certainly did not sound like the word "missed" any more! –  Boann Feb 15 '14 at 11:12
@Boann - The only way I could make them sound differently was to make them, in effect, two-syllable words, pronounced like miss·tə and miss·də. –  J.R. Feb 15 '14 at 11:21
@Izkata - While one being confused with the other may be unlikely for mist and missed, there are other, similar word pairs where it may not always be so clear cut, such as rapt and rapped, bussed and bust, guessed and guest, massed and mast, or blessed and blest. –  J.R. Feb 15 '14 at 21:06

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The suffix -ed is typically pronounced in one of three ways:

  • /d/ after voiced sounds other than /d/.
  • /t/ after voiceless sounds other than /t/.
  • /ɪd/ after /t/ or /d/.

The verb miss is pronounced /mɪs/. Since the final sound is the voiceless consonant /s/, the suffix -ed is pronounced /t/. This means that the whole word missed is pronounced /mɪst/.

Coincidentally, the noun mist is also pronounced /mɪst/.

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Thanks for telling me that after 12 years of pronouncing it "misd" :( –  almousawi Feb 15 '14 at 4:00
@almousawi - I'd like to hear how that sounds different from "mist". –  J.R. Feb 15 '14 at 4:34
youtube.com/watch?v=A7hi-ipU2n0 –  T2E Feb 15 '14 at 21:39

It's probably not fair to say you've been doing it "wrong" -- you would be understood by a slightly surprised listener -- but you haven't been doing it right if your goal is to sound native.

In every dialect of English I know, a native speaker would have an almost impossibly hard time even making the sound "mĭsd". (Possibly with the exception of some regions of India.) It took me three minutes of trying and now my neck hurts because I have to really use untrained muscles to stop the air before I turn on my voice to make a 't' into a 'd'.

[Edit] Other answers on this question have done a great job of explaining the rules. I've learned something myself!

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Are you familiar with the idea of "voice" in phonetics? The only difference between /t/ and /d/ is whether your vocal cords are moving. Your tongue and lips are doing the exact same thing, right? So, the reason that something can be written as a 'd' and pronounced as a /t/ is because there is a close relationship between these sounds. As for whether I say it the same as in 'tea', I couldn't tell you because English only has one kind of /t/ sound, so my ear is not used to understanding different kinds of /t/. The difference does exist in Tamil, though. –  leoger Feb 15 '14 at 2:24
Oh! So I've been pronouncing all of these words 'called', "attacked", "Killed", "Filled", "pulled" wrongly? I pronounce all of these words with the ending sound "d". –  T2E Feb 15 '14 at 2:24
@T2E See snailplane's answer for the rules. Called, killed, &c are pronounced with /d/, because /l/ is voiced; attacked and missed are pronounced with /t/ because /k/ and /s/ are voiceless. –  StoneyB Feb 15 '14 at 3:07
@J.R. Okay. But in this situation as a non-native English speaker how I would I differentiate any two words are homophone or not just by looking at the spelling? All of the words I mentioned ends with "ed". There is no grammar rule that a non native English can use to understand? –  T2E Feb 15 '14 at 3:08
@DanialEarwicker The discussion is about a consonant cluster which closes a syllable. In misdiagnosed this is not the case; the first syllable is closed by the /s/ and the /d/ starts the next syllable. The voicing 'on' the /d/ is therefore implicated in the following vowel /ai/ (or whatever vowel the speaker's dialect employs for this phoneme) and there's no problem. –  StoneyB Feb 15 '14 at 21:38

In words that end with t or ed, the key is the preceding consonant sound. Some letters blend with the t and d so that the sounds are distinguishable, but some don't.

For example:

  • the f sound causes the -ed to sound like a t: that's why stiffed rhymes with lift
  • the k sound caused the -ed to sound like a t: that's why backed rhymes with fact
  • the p sound caused the -ed to sound like a t: that's why wrapped rhymes with apt
  • the s sound caused the -ed to sound like a t: that's why kissed rhymes with list


  • -ed and t sound different after l, which is why felled and belt do not rhyme
  • -ed and t sound different after r, which is why barred and cart do not rhyme
  • -ed and t sound different after n, which is why panned and rant do not rhyme

These aren't deliberate "rules" that need to be remembered; these are simply ways the sounds come out naturally. (It's worth paying attention to how similarly we pronounce some pairs of consonants, such as b and p, or t and d. Simply pronounce each one three or four times, and pay attention to how similarly your lips and tongue move.)

Some consonants don't figure into this discussion, because there aren't any words that end with sounds like:

  • gt (to compare with, say, hugged)
  • bt (to compare with, say, ribbed)
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Found this very helpful: youtube.com/watch?v=A7hi-ipU2n0 –  T2E Feb 15 '14 at 21:21
It may be worth noting that "used" has two different pronunciations depending upon whether it's actually serving as a verb, or as part of an idiomatic expression relating previous behavior. A sentence like "There's the desk I used to study" could have two meanings which would for a native speaker be readily discernible by pronunciation [was had the person previously been studying the desk itself, or utilizing the desk to facilitate the study of other things]? –  supercat Oct 1 '14 at 18:26

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