Author: British Council | Published on 1 June 2023


At the end of some nouns and verbs, the letter ‘s’ can be pronounced three different ways.

Learners often have problems pronouncing ‘s’ endings at the end of plural nouns or 3rd person verbs. The more times they hear these endings, the better they will be able to pronounce them. 


Listen to the pronunciation of these ‘s’ endings: 

[play audio]

Group 1 /s/: walks puts takes carrots 

Group 2 /z/: carries jogs goes arrives sells buys leaves bags vegetables tomatoes bananas things knives

Group 3 /ɪz/: finishes oranges watches boxes fridges

Notice that:

  • The ‘s’ is pronounced /s/ after voiceless sounds (group 1)
  • The ‘s’ is pronounced /z/ after voiced sounds (group 2)
  • The words in group 3 (/ɪz/) always have 2 syllables


Write this story on the board:

Grace and Paul go to the market every Sunday. Grace walks there slowly because she carries bags with food to sell. Peter jogs quickly, so he arrives before her. At the market Grace sells fruit and vegetables from their garden. She sells carrots, tomatoes, oranges and bananas. Paul buys many things for their shop. He buys knives, watches and fridges. He puts everything in boxes and goes home. Grace finishes later so she takes the bus.

Ask learners to work in pairs. Say: “Underline the verbs and circle the nouns ending in ‘s’.” Do the first two sentences together as an example.

During feedback underline and circle the words on the board.

Hear the sounds

Write the 3 ‘s’ sounds in a table on the board:







walks carries oranges

Say: ‘One is sssssss like a snake. Two is zzzzzz like a fly and three sounds like “is”.’ Learners make the 3 sounds.

Say: ‘Look at the story, at the first underlined word. What is the sound?” (= ‘s’ walks). Write ‘walks’ in column one. Elicit examples for /z/ and /ɪz/ and write them on the board. 

Ask learners to work in pairs and copy the table.

Say: “I will read the story to you. Listen and write the underlined and circled words in the table.” Read the story 2 times. 

Feedback: Say: “If the sound is sssssss, point your arms to the left; if it’s zzzzzzz, point to the front; if it sounds like /ɪz/, point to the right.” 

Read the story again, stop after each word, learners point their arms. Write the word in the correct column and give learners time to correct mistakes.


Write on the board:


Mrs Midge’s


The teacher’s

Mr Hock’s






Learners work in pairs to match the rhyming words (=Sam’s pans; Mr Hock’s socks; Mrs Midge’s fridges; Bliss’s kisses; The teacher’s creatures.) Take feedback and drill the phrases. 

Elicit how to make the rhymes (=they must use/create a name and add a plural noun). They can then create their own rhymes using these names, or names which have the same ending (e.g. Mohammed’s beds, the teacher’s features). 

Monitor and support

Learners read their rhymes to the class. 


Drill: A classroom technique used to practise new language. It involves the teacher modelling a word or a sentence and the learners repeating it.

Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners e.g. asking questions, prompting.

Syllable: A single unit of speech which contains a vowel sound (e.g. 'how' has one syllable; 'clever' has two syllables; 'photograph' has three syllables). 

Voiced: A sound made where the vocal cords do move. The voiced consonants in English are b, d, g, j, l, m, n, ng, r, sz, v, w, y, z and th (as in "then"). 

Voiceless: A sound made where the vocal cords don't move. The voiceless consonants in English are ch, f, k, p, s, sh, t and th (as in "thing").