English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I hear sometimes a longer version (reading fully the ending '-tary), and other times a version as if ending in '-try'. Why is that? Are these choices a matter of dialect? What other examples can be given?

share|improve this question
Collins lists both pronunciations. [ˈkɒməntərɪ] is standard for American English, [-trɪ] is common in British English. – Bradd Szonye May 30 '13 at 3:16
OALD also lists this difference, with audio examples. – aedia λ May 30 '13 at 4:15
Why close? Has any credible source noted the reasons and usage for the different pronunciations, which I see is what the Q is about? – Kris May 30 '13 at 4:55
Yes indeed, the question remains: why this difference? Next, I think of another word with the same ending, 'elementary', acting the same... – Jaccuse May 30 '13 at 5:44
All questions should contain the results of research attempted before asking for expert help. I don't understand the "general reference" closevotes, but it's "not a real question" when posted without showing research effort. – MετάEd May 30 '13 at 6:32

I would say it as "com-en-tree".

This is not so much a dialectic issue as it is accent. It's just one of those things, you will get a more strongly vowelled sound if someone is speaking with an accent closer to received pronunciation.

Lower, more working class individuals are more likely to omit the "ary" sound and instead substitute this without the vowel, producing something that would sound like "commentry".

Lower classes are often associated with informality and speech is much more lazily produced as a generic character amongst these groups.

Linguist Jenny Cheshire suggests that less pronounced pronunciation like this amongst adolescent boys, compared to girls is indicative of the men seeking covert prestige. This is such that males are already in a higher position of authority in society than women and thus demonstrating less refined pronunciations indicates they do it because they can. Not my view, but putting it out there for reference.

share|improve this answer
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Hellion May 30 '13 at 14:49
@Hellion apologies, I wasn't thinking and it was supposed to be a comment. I've added a bit more of an answer now. – James Stott May 30 '13 at 15:17

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.