Hi there!

I need to clasify plural words (ending in -s) into three categories, depending on the way the final -s is pronounced:
I can make the difference (very clearly) when it is pronounced /iz/ as in "chances", but I´m completely unable to identify the difference between /s/ and /z/ so... is there any rule?? How can I differenciate them without hearing them?

Thanks for your help in advance.

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In American English, the sound of "s" depends on which sound comes before it.

1. If the noun ends in an unvoiced consonant sound: /f/, /k/, /p/, /t/, /th/-(thin), pronounce "s" as /s/.

2. When it ends in a voiced consonant sound, /b/, /d/, /g/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /ng/, /r/ or with a vowel sound, /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, pronounce "s" as /z/.

3. If it ends with /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/-chair, /zh/-the second "g" in garage, /dz/-(j), pronounce "s" or "-es" as /iz/.

In other words, if the noun ends with a sound other than the 5 unvoiced consonants, pronounce "s" with a /z/ (or with an /iz/ as the case may be).
Hi Teacher Eric,

Thanks for your precious help! I think that´s what I was looking for... Just one thing: when you say in American English, do you mean that in RP English may be different?
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In the Philippines where English is widely spoken and understood and where I've been teaching for the past 7 years, most pronounce the "s" in plural nouns as /s/. My hands are quite full trying to do something about this.

I'm not really sure if that's the case with the English spoken in other English-speaking countries like the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Perhaps someone else can lend a hand?
One cafe, two cafes
One safe, two safes
One giraffe, two giraffes
One gaffe, two gaffes
One knife, two knives
One wife, two wives
One fife, two fifes
One life, two lives

Are there any more you can think of?
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For nouns that end in f:

leaf - leaves
loaf - loaves
elf - elves
dwarf - dwarves (I could've sworn this was spelled "dwarfs" when Disney first came out with "Snow White and the seven...")
reef - reefs
oaf - oafs
Here are some rule breakers:

cactus - cacti (kaktai)
focus - foci (fokai)

(That last one is a math term)
I can't think of any others at the moment, but usually if it ends in "us", you get rid of that and make it "i" (pronounced like I as in me.)
What rule is being broken here, King?
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