In Grammar By Victoria

Commonly mispronounced words — words that often mispronounce

It’s no secret that the beautiful English literate it is based not only on the correct use of grammar rules and features of word, but also qualitatively pronunciation. As in any other language, there are rules in the English reading and pronunciation of certain letter combinations. But at the same time, English is famous for its volume of excluded words that are pronounced in a certain way.

Moreover, in recent years we have seen a tendency to a certain «liberties» with the pronunciation: many words there are two and sometimes three variants of pronunciation, which, being enshrined in the dictionaries, are the norm. In this case, you are free to choose which version of a particular word you read closer. For example, 15 years ago, the word often read only in this way / ɒf.ən /. The pronunciation of the word as / ɒf.tən / was considered a blunder. Now these two pronunciations (British and American) are absolutely acceptable language.

Even studying English for years, there is always a «chance» to meet the word, the pronunciation of which is questionable. Of course you can try to read it on the basis of the existing laws in the reading. But, to be completely sure of its correct pronunciation, you still look in the dictionary. For example, the word colonel — Colonel. Attempts to read it as ko-lo-nel will not succeed, because the pronunciation of the word / kɜː.nəl /. Therefore, all students of English is strongly recommended to have one of the tabs online dictionary and use it as a reference book. These dictionaries are:

  • Cambridge Dictionaries Online
  • Longman English Dictionary Online
  • Oxford dictionaries

In addition to the exclusions in the reading of certain combinations of words, and in general, in the English language there is another «pleasant» nuance. Some cognates are different parts of speech, to be read in different ways because of different setting accents. Consequently, certain syllables reading will also change as the syllable unstressed which was a single word will impact the other and vice versa. For example, here are the words:

  • Photograph / fəʊ.tə.ɡrɑːf / — Photo (accent on the first syllable).
  • Photographer / fətɒɡ.rə.fər / — photographer (accent on the second syllable).
  • Photography / fətɒɡ.rə.fi / — photography as art (accent on the second syllable).
  • Photographic / ˌfəʊ.təɡræf.ɪk / — photographic (accent on the second syllable).
  • Technical / tek.nɪ.kəl / — Technical (accent on the first syllable).
  • Technician / teknɪʃ.ən / — techniques (accent on the second syllable).
  • Competition / ˌkɒm.pətɪʃ.ən / — competition (accent on the second syllable).
  • Competitor / kəmpet.ɪ.tər / — rival (accent on the second syllable).
  • Compete / kəmpiːt / — compete (accent on the second syllable).
  • Competitive / kəmpet.ɪ.tɪv / — competitor (accent on the second syllable).
  • Politician / ˌpɒl.ɪtɪʃ.ən / — policies (accent on the second syllable)
  • Political / pəlɪt.ɪ.kəl / — political (accent on the second syllable)
  • Politics / pɒl.ɪ.tɪks / — policy (accent on the first syllable)

And here is a wonderful dialogue with them is from the book «How now, brown cow?» (A course in the pronunciation of English, with exercises and dialogues by Mimi Ponsonby):

DIALOGUE 7: Photography or politics?

Diana: What have you decided to do after college, Jeremy?

Jeremy: I’m going to take up photography. Mr. McKenzie’s recommended the course at the Institute. He believes I could make a career as a photographer.

Diana: You’ll have to develop your own photographs. That requires technical skill. Jeremy, you’re not a technician! And photographic materials are very expensive.

Jeremy: Well, Diana, Mr. McKenzie thinks there’s a possibility I might win the Observer competition. I sent in four entries. All the competitors are amateurs, like myself.

Diana: I detest competitions. I never agree with the decision of the judges! I’m going to be a politician. I shall become the most distinguished woman on the political scene!

Jeremy: I thought you hated competing! Do not tell me politics is not competitive!

Stress — is another equally important aspect of English pronunciation. Since stress is often wrong setting can lead to misinterpretation of the word. Everyone should remember that the numerals 13 and 19 in the English language are pronounced with the accent on the last syllable teen (13 / θɜːtiːn /, 15 / ˌfɪftiːn /, 19 / ˌnaɪntiːn /). And in dozens of emphasis is on the first syllable (30 / θɜː.ti /, 50 / fɪf.ti /, 90 / naɪn.ti /). Often ignoring this rule, we put the accent on the first syllable in words with 13-19. Try to quickly say, first 13, then 30. You will see that in the flow of speech from the last syllable words with 13-19 just «eaten up», it is not audible. And it turns out that the person hears is not 13, and 30.

Confusing words

The Internet is made up more than a list of words, with pronunciation problems that the majority of English language learners. I would like to introduce you to the most interesting items (the correct pronunciation in transcription next to the word):

  • Anxiety / æŋzaɪ.ə.ti / — alarm — confusing reading single-rooted adjective / æŋk.ʃəs /, so the word anxiety trying to liken his pronunciation.
  • Chaos / keɪ.ɒs / — chaos — great desire to say it in Russian style «chaos».
  • Choir / kwaɪər / — chorus — an interesting accent, which is not possible to guess without a dictionary.
  • Comfortable / kʌm.fə.tə.bl̩ / — user-friendly — the influence of the Russian language does not pass completely against this word, so the emphasis «walks» by syllables.
  • Draught / drɑːft / — Draft — draws an analogy with reading the letter combinations aught / ɔːt /, but it’s wrong.
  • Height / haɪt / — height — pronunciation of the word does not seem to figure 8 pronunciation.
  • Hyperbole / haɪpɜː.bəl.i / — hyperbole — pronunciation just have to remember by heart, like many other words in the English language.
  • Infamous / ɪn.fə.məs / — infamous — automatically tries to read the same as the word famous / feɪ.məs /.
  • Island / aɪ.lənd / — island aisle / aɪl / — number — until you learn these words, we read them as / islənd / and / isl /.
  • Lieutenant / leften.ənt / — Lieutenant — you always want to read the first syllable / ljʊ /, and get a surprise.
  • Opposite / ɒp.ə.zɪt / — opposite — often pronounced incorrectly third syllable / ‘sait /, in the same place, and put the emphasis.
  • Probably / prɒb.ə.bli / — possible — move the accent on the second syllable, adding vowels at the end of the word.
  • Queue / kjuː / — turn — met that word once, have to work with the dictionary.
  • Recipe / res.ɪ.pi / — recipe — read the second syllable as open / saip /, because they mistakenly put the emphasis there.
  • Superfluous / suːpɜː.flu.əs / — overweight — try to pronounce the first part of the word / super /.
  • Thesaurus / θɪsɔː.rəs / — Thesaurus —used Russian word «thesaurus» interfere with the right to say a word.
  • Through / θruː / — through — we are committed to read almost all the letters in the word, and do not need to.
  • Threshold / θreʃ.həʊld / — threshold — are committed to read the word as a combination of two separate thres + hold, so we lose the sound / ʃ /.

Particular difficulties in pronunciation as the word cause, having in its composition silent letters are not read. For example:

  • Answer / ɑːn.sər / — answer.
  • Debt / det / — debt.
  • Honor / ɒn.ər / — honor.
  • Honest / ɒn.ɪst / — honest.
  • Receipt / rɪsiːt / — check.
  • Salmon / sæm.ən / — salmon.
  • Subtle / sʌt.əl / — thin.

And, of course, it is not easy to cope with the reading of words, consisting of several syllables. Very often, in these words besides the main emphasis has also secondary. It is denoted below as opposed to master. Long words in the English language a lot. To teach them how to read, it is necessary to say a few times. Practice reading these words:

  • Aluminium / ˌæl.jəmɪn.i.əm / — aluminum.
  • Anesthetist / əniːs.θə.tɪst / — anesthetist.
  • Hereditary / həred.ɪ.tər.i / — hereditary.
  • Prioritizing / praɪɒr.ɪ.taɪziŋ / — prioritization.
  • Pronunciation / prəˌnʌn.sieɪ.ʃən / — pronunciation.
  • Provocatively / prəvɒk.ə.tɪvli / — provocative.
  • Remuneration / rɪˌmjuː.nəreɪ.ʃən / — cash consideration.

Pronunciation nightmare

To appreciate the complexity of the pronunciation of certain English words, I suggest you try your hand at reading the famous poem «Dearest creature in creation …», difficulties arise which absolutely all English language learners regardless of their level. The full version of the poem can be downloaded here. I also suggest you to record 2 with a part of the poem written by teachers who are native speakers of our school. After listening to the recording, you can once again see how very different American pronunciation (teacher Scott) from the British (teacher Dave):



The problem of pronunciation and reading in English is quite important. And, of course, the World Wide Web has a lot of resources, which give it special attention. Among these resources, I would like to highlight:

  • — the world’s largest database pronunciations consisting of numerous audio recordings than any words.
  • — online guide to pronunciation of English sounds in different variants of the English language with the possibility of listening.
  • — free «talking» online dictionary of pronunciation in English.
  • — tips on pronunciation from BBC Learning English.
  • — reference phonetic symbols in English.
  • — the most famous recording service that allows you to quickly record and listen to your pronunciation.

Opportunities to monitor and improve your pronunciation a lot. Resources to help you more deeply and thoroughly study this topic is also enough. The main thing — the desire to have a beautiful sound and a lot of patience on the way to the goal! Wish you luck!



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