How to pronounce ‘se’ endings

Listen to the following words. Do we always use the same pronunciation for ‘se’ at the end of a word?

because      wise      house (n)      house (v)     else
Although all these words end with the same two letters ‘se’, the pronunciation does not stay the same – sometimes it is pronounced /s/ (house (n), else) and sometimes /z/ (because, wise, house (v)).

How do we know whether to use /s/ or /z/?

  • Most words ending with ‘consonant + se’ use /s/.
  • Most verbs ending with ‘ise’ are pronounced with /z/, which is why the spelling ‘ize’ can sometimes be used instead.
  • ‘ose’ usually uses /z/, whereas ‘oose’ usually uses /s/.
  • ‘use’ usually uses /z/.
  • A few words change pronunciation depending on what type of word it is, e.g. close /s/ (adjective) and close /z/ (verb).

DRILL

Repeat the following:

Consonant + se /s/: else, tense, corpse, rehearse, finesse
‘ise’ verbs /z/: apologise, agonise, realise, compromise, prioritise
‘ose’ /z/: chose, hose, lose, those, whose
‘oose’ /s/: goose, loose, moose, noose, mongoose
‘use’/z/: fuse, confuse, muse, ruse, peruse
Variation: close /s/ (adjective), close /z/ (verb), house /s/ (noun), house /z/ (verb), excuse /s/ (n), excuse /z/ (verb), use /s/ (noun), use /z/ (verb)

EXERCISE

Decide whether each -se ending should be said /s/ or /z/:

A. I own one mouse who likes cheese and three geese who chase me around.
B. Praise whoever bought this case of wine, because it’s delicious!
C. It’s wise to look at the base rate for that house in paradise.
D. This is a phase of the disease that affects the obese.
E. Do you realise the grease from those wheels is all over the hose?
F. You must apologise for breaking his nose and making so much noise.
G. I’m tense and worried because this disguise is too loose!
H. Is there any use for this fuse or do we not need to use it?
A. mouse /s/, cheese /z/, geese /s/, chase /s/
B. praise/z/, case /s/, because /z/
C. wise/z/, base /s/, house /s/, paradise /s/
D. phase /z/, disease /z/, obese /s/
E. realise /z/, grease /s/, hose /z/
F. apologise /z/, nose /z/, noise /z/
G. tense /s/, disguise /z/, loose /s/
H. use /s/, fuse /z/, use /z/