When "ate" is "it"
When did the graduate graduate?
Sounds that change when spelling doesn’t
How do you pronounce this: “When did the graduate graduate?”
I made a video of me pronouncing all the words on this page.
If you think English spelling is crazy, keep in mind that what we see today has come a long way from what it used to be. The same spelling of the suffix “-ate” is currently used in nouns, adjectives, and verbs because they started as different sources in Latin then were changed in spelling, usage, and pronunciation as they were used in Old English.
Nouns - From Latin words ending with “-atus” and “-atum” and French words ending “-at” (the “e” was added).
Adjectives - From Latin words ending with past participle forms “-atus” and “-ata.”
Verbs - From Latin adjectives that became verbs in Old English.
So now we have the same spelling and word stress for some nouns, adjectives, and verbs, but the pronunciation changes for the “-ate” suffix. The part of speech of the word will determine which sound it is:
Nouns and Adjectives - pronounce the “-ate” suffix as /ɪ/ just like “it.”
Verbs - pronounce the “-ate” suffix as /e͜ɪt/ just like “ate.”
When did the graduate graduate? = When did the grad-ju-wit grad-ju-wait?
Actually, the changing pronunciation of the suffix “ate” IS the exception. Not all words ending in “-ate” can be used as both nouns or adjectives and verbs. The following are examples of consistent pronunciations.
I am using bold on the stressed syllables of all words.
Almost all verbs ending in “-ate” follow the guideline that the stress is placed two syllables before the suffix and the “-ate” is pronounced as /e͜ɪt/ just like “ate.”
The stressed syllables in these kinds of verbs don’t change when the suffixes “-ed” or “-ing” are added.
calculate: calculated, calculating
generate: generated, generating
Stress moves to the syllable before the “-tion” suffix.
Examples of verbs ending in “-ate” that are pronounced as “ate”
There are nouns that end in “-ate” that do not change to verbs or adjectives.
Examples of chemistry words ending in “-ate” that are pronounced as “ate”
There are a smaller number of general nouns that pronounce the suffix “-ate” as /ɪ/ just like “it.”
Examples of general nouns ending in “-ate” that are pronounced as “it”
There are adjectives with the “-ate” suffix that do not change to nouns or verbs and the “-ate” is pronounced as /ɪ/ just like “it.”
Examples of nouns ending in “-ate” that are pronounced as “it”
A few of the words above drop a syllable:
desperate = des-prit
corporate = cor-prit
doctorate = doc-trit
That’s a whole other complication with spelling/sound relationships in English!