Pronunciation > Double letters > "SS" in English words

"SS" in English words

By Alena Lien, 13 Aug 2020

 

 

The letter "c" can be pronounced as either /k/ or /s/. 

There are 3 distinct ways of pronouncing "ss" in English words. 

1.   /s/ (single /s/ sound)

This is the general rule, when you see "ss" in English words - whether at the end of words or in the middle. 

At the end:

  • Boss

  • Less

  • Pass

In the middle:

  • Essay

  • Assess

  • Gossip

Sometimes you may hear 2 s-sounds - as in the case of "assess" or "gossip". This is because of the linked sound between the first and syllables, even though it is a single consonant sound.

 

The same applies when you add "-es" and "-ed."

 

With "-es":

  • Bosses

  • Crosses

  • Misses

With "-ed":

  • Bossed

  • Crossed

  • Missed

2.   /ss/ (double /s/ sounds)

This usually occurs when you have a prefix that ends with an "s" ("dis" and "mis"), followed by a word that starts with an "s." 

  • Dissatisfaction

  • Disservice

  • Misspeak

  • Misspell

  • Misspend

  • Misstate

However, it is not always clear which words have prefixes. The following words have a single /s/ sound - these may look like they have prefixes but do not.

 

  • Dissociate

  • Dissipate

  • Missile

 

It is easier to pronounce (all of) them as a single s-sound because of the linked sound between the first and second syllable. The list of words where you are supposed to pronounce two /s/ sounds are limited and any kind of mispronunciation here is not that clear to others anyway.

3.   /z/

The following are the only words pronounced with /z/.

  • Brassiere

  • Dessert

  • Dissolve 

  • Possess

  • Scissors (The first "ss" is pronounced as /z/, and the second "ss" is pronounced as /s/.)

  • Hussar

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