Three -S Endings in TOEFL Speaking and Writing

Remember to include TOEFL Speaking and Writing -s endings. There are three types of -s endings: the possessive -s, the plural -s, and the third person singular -s. This lesson will teach you the grammar and the pronunciation of the s-ending.

Three -S Endings








The Possessive -s Ending

There are two ways to show possession with nouns. “Of + noun” after a noun expresses ownership:

  • The smartphone of Miller
  • The meeting of the boss

Since it is considered bulky to express possession using “N + PP,” possession can also be formed by adding an apostrophe after a modifying noun and by then placing a noun directly afterward.

  • Miller’s smartphone
  • The boss’s meeting

As you complete your speaking and writing practice, always make sure that you are not forgetting the possessive -s ending.

The Plural -s

In addition to the possessive -s, the plural -s ending is used after count nouns to make them plural.

  • Bike >>>>three bikes
  • Car >>>>four cars
  • Smile>>>many smiles

Even though your language may not use the plural -s ending, remember to use this ending as you complete your speaking and writing practice.

The Third Person Singular -s

The last -s ending is the third person singular inflection -s. This ending carries an almost purposeless grammatical function. Therefore, many American dialects omit this ending in conversational discourse. Moreover, many non-native international students omit this ending. In fact, even if you live in the United States for more than 25 years, you could still only have an 85% mastery of the third person present singular -s ending. As a result, TOEFL iBT raters are trained to look at the omission of this -s ending as a systematic error. This means that you can still score 30 points on the speaking and writing sections even if you omit this -s ending.

1st person singular: I walk.


1st person plural: We walk
2nd person singular: You walk.


2nd person plural: You all walk.
3rd person singular: He/she/it walks 3rd person plural: They walk.

Pronouncing the -s as a [z]

When the -s occurs after voiced consonants, you should pronounce the -s as a [z].

  • Grabs                                [g r ɶ b z]
  • Buys                                  [b ay z ]
  • Pencils                               [p ɛ n S ļ z ]

In words that end in a voiced consonant such as the [b], [d], [g], [v], [ð ] eth sounds, the -s ending is pronounced as a [z] sound, without creating an additional syllable.

Google “What are voiced consonants sounds in American English?” to get an extensive list of all consonants which cause vibration in the vocal folds.

Pronouncing the -s as an [s]

The -s should be pronounced as an [s] when occurs after certain voiceless consonants such as the [p], [t], [k], [f],(ɵ), and [s], the -s is pronounced as an [s] sound, without creating an additional syllable.

  • Looks                   [l U k s ]
  • Pots                     [p a t s ]
  • Barks                   [b a r k s ]

Pronouncing the -s as an additional syllable [Iz]

Words that end in sounds such as the [s], [ch], [sh], and [g] as in “judge,” you should add an additional syllable at the end of the word.

  • pieces                [p I s I z]
  • washes              [w a sh I z]
  • churches           [ch er ch I z]

Three -s Endings Grammar Quiz

Choose which answer correctly completes the sentence. Pay close attention to the three -s endings: the third person singular present -s, the plural -s, and the possessive -s.

1. Most days in the mornings, Susan________about three miles with a co-worker.

A. runs

B. run

C. runned

2. ________new class requires him to write a 25 page research paper.

A. Kenneths

B. Kenneth’s

3. She had two________of bread and a bowl of cereal before leaving to attend her English class.

A. slice

B. slices

C. slice’s


4. Leroy always________his favorite magazine right before he goes to bed at night.

A. read

B. reads

C. read’s


5. The campers’ tents were destroyed after 100 kilometer per hour winds roared through their valley.

A. camper’s

B. campers’

C. campers


6.  My________friend told me that he would be travleing to Beijing next Summer.

A. brother

B. brothers

C. brother’s


7.  My ESL teacher gave us so much________that we did not have time to do anything else.

A. homework

B. homeworks

C. homework’s


8. Don’t tell anyone that John________to watch movies with his mother.

A. like

B. likes

C. like’s


9. Most of the________papers were graded when the professor was on vacation, and then he returned the papers to them when the school session resumed.

A. student’s

B. students’

C. students


10. I believe that most Americans do not need more than two________.

A. car

B. cars’

C. cars


11. She________home next week after she finishes his vacation in Japan.

A. return

B. returns’

C. returns


12. The________accomplishment was so incredible that the President of the United States invited her to the White House.

A. woman

B. womans’

C. woman’s

13. A saying which advocates the importance of cooperation says, “Two_________are better than one.”

A. head

B. heads’

C. heads

14. The________students placed first in the National Debate Championship in New York City.

A. professors

B. professor’s

C. professor


15.  Since________is such a scarce resource, we should make every effort to conserve it.

A. water

B. waters

C. water’s

16. Most___________at the Grand Canyon involve tourists riding mules to the river and back.

A. adventure

B. adventures’

C. adventures


17. Trying to survive in the Artic___________a lot of skills and patience.

A. require

B. requires

C. require’s

18. ______________like marshy areas with lush vegetation.

A. Animal

B. Animal’s

C. Animals


19. Ten people ventured into the wilderness to ____________ in a survival of the fittest contest.

A. participate

B. participates

C. participated

20. This_________has been characterized by pure isolation because of the Coronavirus political unrest.

A. year

B. year’s

C. years

Three -s Endings Pronunciation Quiz

Choose which answer is the correct pronuncaition of the -s ending.


1. looks

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


2. blends

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


3. sniffs

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


4. cars

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


5. searches

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


6. sees

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


7. figures

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


8. breaths

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


9. breathes

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


10. chances

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


11. fishes

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


12. plans

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


14. reads

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


15. circumstances

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


16. blows

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


17. hunts

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


18. organizes

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


19. links

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


20. pieces

A. [s]

B. [z]

C. [Iz]


Three -s Endings Additional Information


Now you have a good idea of how you pronounce the three -s endings. In addition, you understand how to the use these inflectional endings grammatically.  Depending on your budget, I have several services to help you improve your grammar and pronunciation.  My feedback as you complete your speaking and writing practice tests will help you to minimize these pronunciation and grammar and any other problems you might be having right now.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,

TOEFL Private Lessons

TOEFL Speaking and Writing Feedback Service

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