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How does one pronounce past participles in -thed, such as "clothed" and "bathed" in British English? Are there more than one correct pronunciation?

A Cambridge dictionary said [-ðd], but would it also be correct to omit the final "d"? I find it rather hard to include it.

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The standard pronuncation of 'bathed' in both British English and American English is /beɪðd/.

In Southern British English, 'bath' (noun) is pronounced [bɑːθ] while the verb 'bathe' is pronounced [beɪð]. The voiced 'th' [ð] is a remnant of Old English. And in Old English, it was a result of Intervocalic Fricative Voicing.

It's not correct to omit the final d but you'll hear the pronunciation without d a lot.

Most speakers pronounce the d but it's unreleased.
The reason you don't hear the d is that it's usually unreleased (i.e. [beɪðd̚]) at the end. But when it's followed by a vowel, then the d can be released and you'll often hear it. (Context will tell you which form of verb is used.)

How to articulate [ðd]: You can articulate the [ð] in two ways: dentally and Interdentally.

For dental [ð], you put the tip of your tongue against the back of the top teeth.

For interdental [ð], you stick out the tongue between the top and bottom teeth.

It depends on how much the tongue sticks out between the teeth.

For [ðd] in 'bathed', you articulate the [ð] (either dentally or Interdentally) and then move the tip of your tongue to the alveolar ridge and build a pressure for articulating the [d] but the air is usually not released (i.e. no puff of air).

Note: Some people might release the d at the end of 'bathed' and you'll hear a clear d. It depends on how you pronounce it.

(Fricative Voicing handouts - PDF).

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Question: How does one pronounce past participles in -thed, such as "clothed" and "bathed" in British English? Are there more than one correct pronunciation?

A Cambridge dictionary said "-ðd", but would it also be correct to omit the final "d"?

[I want the question to appear in my answer.]
Answer: The Cambridge Dictionary is right. The answer is no, you cannot omit the final d in writing and in speaking, it can be heard but not always super clearly. However, leaving off the d will give you present simple.

If used as a simple past verb, the form is bathed or clothed.

  • We bathed in the river as the summer house has no shower or bathtub.
  • The church members fed and clothed the poor in the neighborhood.

If you don't pronounce the d, you get the present simple of the verbs bathe and clothe:

  • We bathe in the river as the summer house has no shower or bathtub.
  • The church members feed and clothe the poor.
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  • I notice that although I say "bathe in the river" and "bathed in the river" quite different, "clothe the poor" and "clothed the poor" sound almost identical. – Tanner Swett Aug 12 at 3:30
  • @TannerSwett, clothe the poor and clothed the poor sound identical for me too. In clothe the poor, the [ð] of 'clothe' and that of 'the' geminate (a long [ð] sound). In clothed the poor, you have three consonants in a row ([ð d ð]) and the 'th' sound is difficult, so instead of switching from [ð] to [d] and then from [d] to [ð], we tend to drop the d and geminate both the [ð]. It's fairly common to drop a consonant when it comes between two other consonants (fast and casual speech). – Wistful Aug 12 at 4:55
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    "[I want the question to appear in my answer.]" Why? – Acccumulation Aug 12 at 5:09
  • @Acccumulation Because I do. Is it against the rules? – Lambie Aug 12 at 12:59
  • @Tanner Swett When, in English, there are cases of difficulty in hearing some consonant or other, speakers adjust their pronunciation, obviously. But whether in writing or in speech, you need the d to distinguish simple present from simple past. That said, bathe and clothe are mostly found in writing and not in speech. That said, a sophisticated speaker who uses it would make the distinction, of course. – Lambie Aug 12 at 13:05
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The past participle ends in /ðd/ so we have approximately /beiðd/

The infinitive and basic form of the verb is "bathe" /beið/

I have /beiðd/ in the river.

I /beið/ in the river every evening.

Note that the running to gether of words means that you get /beiðdin/.

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