Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Compare pronunciations:

  • "I want to use the bathroom" (yoos)
  • "I made use of the bathroom." (yus)

My poor attempt at creating a phonetically descriptive syntax is supposed to convey that, with the verb construction, "use" is pronounced with a long u whose sound continues during the speaking of the s. The noun construction is a shorter sound, where the u and the s are distinct.

It suddenly strikes me that this is such a slight change as to be barely noticeable if the listener is not already expecting it, or if the listener is not the speaker himself. So now I'm not sure whether I'm the only person doing this, and it's freaking me out a bit because I hate when I find out I've been mispronouncing terms for years; I'm too picky with my language for that.

So, is it just me forming a different pronunciation for "use" dependant on the context? Is it perhaps a regional thing? Or is everyone, indeed, doing it?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't know about regional or dialect changes, but "use" has only one pronunciation for what concerns the "vowel" sound in it.

The last consonant sound changes, being [s] and [z].

It's [juːs] when it's a noun and [juːz] when it's a verb, becoming [ju:st] when we have the construction "used t-o".

share|improve this answer
    
Ah yes; it's the consonant I'm hearing, not the vowel. Good to know I'm not imagining it! –  Lightness Races in Orbit May 15 '11 at 15:57
    
been speaking and hearing English all my life and have never ever experienced a difference in the two pronunciations... Too weird for words –  mplungjan May 15 '11 at 16:02
    
@Tomalak: Why best answer? Peter's answer is more complete. @ Alennano: No offence, just wondering. –  user8568 May 15 '11 at 16:03
    
@mplungjan: I haven't been hearing English all my life, but I thought they had no remarkable difference as well... :D @Boob: No problem, you're free to wonder. :D –  Alenanno May 15 '11 at 16:26
    
@Alennano: Grazie tanto! –  user8568 May 15 '11 at 16:55
show 4 more comments

The real difference between these pronunciations is that use (the noun) is pronounced with an /s/ and use (the verb) is pronounced with an /z/ (except in the construction used to). In American English, vowels that are followed by a voiced consonant are longer than those followed by an unvoiced consonant (see this wikipedia page), and this is the source of the length difference you are noticing.

share|improve this answer
2  
American English certainly has nothing to do with anything I'm noticing! I'm talking about English. (Your explanation regardless seems to be accurate, though. It's the consonant I'm hearing, not the vowel.) –  Lightness Races in Orbit May 15 '11 at 15:54
    
Many dialects of British English also shorten vowels before unvoiced consonants, as the webpage I link to says. –  Peter Shor Sep 22 '12 at 20:51
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

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.