There are 3 distinct ways of pronouncing SS in English words. 


1.   SS = /s/ (single /s/ sound)

In general, SS are usually pronounced as a single /s/ sound, whether at the end of words or in the middle. 

Sometimes you may hear a double /s/, 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.

At the end:

  • Boss
  • Less
  • Pass

In the middle:

  • Essay
  • Assess
  • Gossip

The same applies when you add “-es” and “-ed.”

With “-es”:

  • Bosses
  • Crosses
  • Misses

With “-ed”:

  • Bossed
  • Crossed
  • Missed
2.   S = /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

* Tip: It is easier to pronounce these 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 double /s/ sounds are limited and any kind of mispronunciation here is not that clear to others anyway.

3.   SS = /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

Original posts: 13 August 2020