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Could you please help find which word below is pronounced differently from the rest with regard to the final s?

  1. caves
  2. marks
  3. exams
  4. days

I choose number 2, marks.

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You have chosen wisely. –  Jim Apr 16 '13 at 14:48
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This should be moved to ELL.EU. –  John Lawler Apr 16 '13 at 14:54
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1 Answer

"Letters" are not pronounced in English; but the plural is simple as long as you don't think of letters, but sounds.

It's

  • /-s/ after voiceless consonants (/p t k f θ/)
  • /-z/ after everything else.
  • Plus, you have to add a shwa /ə/ after sibilants /s ʃ tʃ z ʒ dʒ/ before you add /-z/.

That's it. That's the whole rule.
It's not a spelling rule, it's a pronunciation rule. Most rules like this are pronunciation rules.

English phoneme symbols here.

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Plus a final unvoiced continuant (usually) becomes voiced when adding a -s noun or verb inflection. It does so in wolf > wolves, bath > baths, house > houses but not in cough > coughs. –  tchrist Apr 16 '13 at 15:01
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That's an irregular root change, though; it doesn't affect the suffix rule. That's in the same boat as zero plurals like sheep or archaic ones like oxen and women. Details here. –  John Lawler Apr 16 '13 at 15:09
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