This tag is for questions about the sounds, intonation, and stress of how words are uttered or produced.

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154
votes
7answers
22k views

How are “i.e.” and “e.g.” pronounced?

How are i.e. and e.g. pronounced?
108
votes
2answers
9k views

Why is “bicycle” pronounced differently from other obviously related words?

The word bicycle is pronounced /'baɪsɪkəl/ (bahy-si-kuhl), like sickle. However, the words unicycle and motorcycle both have the -cycle pronounced as /-'saɪkəl/ (sahy-kuhl). Is there some sort of ...
80
votes
26answers
7k views

How to read “E = (mc)²” so as not to mistake for “E = mc²”

According to one of the questions already asked on EL&U, “E = mc²” is read as E equals M C squared. How do we read “E = (mc)²” so that it is not mistaken for “E = mc²”?
67
votes
13answers
22k views

When should I use “a” vs “an”?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
60
votes
11answers
32k views

When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

A basic grammar rule is to use an instead of a before a vowel sound. Given that historic is not pronounced with a silent h, I use “a historic”. Is this correct? What about heroic? Should be “It was a ...
53
votes
5answers
29k views

In the word “Scent”, is the S or the C silent?

So I saw a post on a funny pictures site... "In the word "Scent", is the S or the C silent?" And I thought I could ask about it here. In particular, how does the pronunciation of "scent" differ ...
36
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is “cupboard” pronounced with a silent “p”?

According to Google at least, the word "cupboard" originated in late Middle English as denoting a board that held cups. Since then, the word has evolved to mean a kind of cabinet. My question is, ...
36
votes
7answers
39k views

What is the correct way to pronounce 'router'?

Merriam-Webster lists both ˈrüt and ˈrau̇t as possible pronunciations for route but only ˈrau̇-tər for router. Is it really wrong to pronounce router as 'rüter ?
36
votes
4answers
5k views

Why is ‘i’ in milk pronounced differently from ‘i’ in find?

As far as I know, in words of the structure CVCC, the vowel is usually short. Examples include milk, front, clamp, wasp, sport, etc. However, with some CC types, the vowel seems to always be long ...
35
votes
4answers
3k views

How to pronounce “720p” and “1080p”

How do you pronounce 720p and 1080p? Because I don't live in a country that uses English, I haven't heard it yet. I guess it doesn't have a rule. seven hundred twenty p seven twenty p seventy two ...
34
votes
9answers
10k views

How are 'marry', 'merry', and 'Mary' pronounced differently?

The way I pronounce these words is the same. Similarly for other words like these: I pronounce ferry and fairy the same, carrot and caret. Yet, dictionaries show different pronunciations for these ...
34
votes
8answers
39k views

Is “forte” pronounced “fort” or “for-tay”?

I've always heard people say something like "Pronunciation is not my [for-tay]" ... but I feel that I've heard that the correct pronunciation is "Confusing people is my [fort]" What is the ...
34
votes
6answers
2k views

Pronunciation of the English alphabet

Why are there inconsistencies in the pronunciation of the consonants of the alphabet? For example: 'b' is pronounced like 'bee' but 'm' is pronounced as 'em' rather than 'me'. The pronunciation of 'h' ...
29
votes
4answers
11k views

How to pronounce the programmer's abbreviation “char”

In many programming languages, char is a type name for character values. The word character is pronounced with a [k] sound, but what about char? While trying to find the answer elsewhere, I learnt ...
29
votes
5answers
20k views

Should the number “0” be pronounced “zero” or “oh”?

I have often heard people say 101, as one-zero-one, and also as one-oh-one. Which is correct, and why? Does the difference between British English and American English have to do something with it?
27
votes
2answers
13k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
27
votes
4answers
1k views

Why are Leicester & co pronounced as they are?

What is the origin of the pronunciation of words like Leicester, Gloucester, Worcestershire? Presumably, the spelling predates the pronunciation but what is the history here? What language do the ...
26
votes
5answers
15k views

Why are Greek letters pronounced incorrectly in scientific English?

In Greek, for example, the letter β is pronounced "veeta", but in science, people use "beta". Some other offenders are η "eeta", ι "yiota", μ "mee", ν "nee", π "pee", τ "taf", χ "hee", ψ "psee". I ...
26
votes
4answers
3k views

Pronunciation of “have” in “I don't have to” [do something]

Normally when I say "I don't have to do that" (meaning I'm not obliged to), I find that as well as putting heavy stress on the word "have", I pronounce if haff. Is this common? If so, why does the ...
26
votes
2answers
9k views

What's the deal with “colonel”?

Why does the word colonel (as in military rank) have such a strange spelling compared to how it's pronounced (or vice versa, although I don't know how you would pronounce that)?
25
votes
3answers
2k views

Do Americans understand Donald Duck?

I had always assumed that although I understood only about half of what Donald Duck says in his cartoons, Americans understood everything despite his comical pronunciation. However friends have just ...
23
votes
7answers
13k views

Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
23
votes
4answers
8k views

Why are “sugar” and “sure” pronounced with an SH?

As far as I know, those are the only two. They should be pronounced Soogher and Soor, shouldn't they? I looked them up on Dictionary.com, and their etymologies reveal no trace of an SH, except where ...
23
votes
1answer
2k views

Explain this pickup line: “If Bangkok invaded Djibouti, would Greece help?”

I was at an Model UN conference and often notes like the following get passed. As I'm not a native speaker, I assume that this has to do with some pronunciational issue. Can you please explain what's ...
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Words with a leading silent w

My eldest is a beginning reader. Yesterday we read one of my favorite books, The Wreck of the Zephyr. He pointed at wreck and asked me why that one looked like it said "wuh-reck." I explained that ...
23
votes
3answers
3k views

Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word?

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced. Is there a rule or reason for the differences?
23
votes
2answers
793 views

Send, sent; end, *ent?

The past tense of a number of verbs changes from -end to -ent: bend → bent lend → lent rend → rent send → sent spend → spent wend → went However, most do not, notably end. Granted, I say “I ent ...
22
votes
8answers
2k views

Are “traitor” and “trader” pronounced the same?

Are "traitor" and "trader" distinguishable when spoken with any English accent? My English-speaking friends seem to pronounce them exactly the same way.
22
votes
4answers
20k views

Why does “bass” sound like “base”?

Why is bass pronounced like base? If bass sounds like base, why isn't ass pronounced as (nearly) ace instead?
22
votes
3answers
5k views

Is the “-b” to be pronounced in the word “limb”? What about “thumb”? “Crumb”?

I'm confused about the differing pronunciations of words that end in "-b". For example, I remember being told by some of earliest teachers that the "-b" in limb was meant to be silent, and one ...
21
votes
4answers
7k views

Why are 'student' and 'suspend' not pronounced as written?

I am a Chinese student beginning to learn English. I am curious to know why the word student is pronounced with the sound of d instead of t. Likewise, why is the sound of b used instead of p when ...
21
votes
6answers
5k views

“Tortoise” and “taught us”

I’m reading Alice in Wonderland, and found the following dialogue: “The master was an old Turtle — we used to call him Tortoise—” “Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice ...
21
votes
6answers
20k views

Why is the “ph” pronounced like a “v” in “Stephen”? Is this the only word like that?

While I know how my name is pronounced, I've run into many non-native english speakers who have stumbled over this unique exception to English. Even in the female name, "Stephanie", the ph is ...
20
votes
5answers
16k views

How is SQL pronounced?

When I was learning SQL, I remember reading that it should be pronounced just like the word sequel; however, I worked with a bunch of techs who seemed to prefer S-Q-L. Is there a proper convention for ...
20
votes
4answers
19k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
20
votes
11answers
25k views

What is the correct pronunciation of the word “ma’am”?

Back in the day, the word ma’am (when addressing the Queen) was always pronounced “marm”. British TV shows from before the 80s confirm this. In the movie The Queen, we are told that the correct ...
20
votes
5answers
11k views

Reason for different pronunciations of “lieutenant”

While Americans (and possibly others) pronounce this as "loo-tenant", folks from the UK pronounce it as "lef-tenant". Why?
19
votes
6answers
4k views

When do I pronounce a non-existing “r” between adjacent vowel sounds?

If I say two words consecutively, with the first ending in a vowel sound and the second starting with one, when is it correct to include a non-existing r between those two words? Examples from ...
19
votes
4answers
16k views

What is the correct pronunciation and spelling of “asterisk”?

Every now and then I get caught out by a spellchecker around the word asterisk. I can accept that this is the correct spelling, however I hear a lot of people pronouncing it as asterix also. Is it ...
19
votes
4answers
14k views

Why are there 3 different ways to pronounce “oo”?

My German colleagues were laughing at the way I pronounce google, and it led to a discussion. With words like google, yahoo, poodle and loose, the oo has a sound similar to the German ü sound. With ...
19
votes
3answers
5k views

What does “Do you haz teh codez?” mean?

There is a banner in StackOverflow pointing to the careers website (programmers): Do you haz teh codez? My questions about the sentence/question are: What's the question in plain English? Why ...
18
votes
5answers
7k views

Correct, clear, concise way to use “potato-potato” in writing

"You say tomato, I say tomato" and the song from the beginning. As an informal turn of speech, it can be used to show that two or more parties are talking about basically the same thing but not in ...
17
votes
11answers
30k views

What is the correct pronunciation of the word “solder”?

I have been listening to a podcast where the host pronounces the word solder as "sodder" or "sod-der", even "saw-der". Same thing happened when the lecturer of one of my EE classes pronounced the word ...
17
votes
6answers
75k views

How is “æ” supposed to be pronounced?

The Encyclopædia Brittanica still uses the symbol "æ". However, I still hear everyone pronounce it as "Encyclo pee dia", when their spelling suggests more along the lines of "Encyclo pah dia" or ...
15
votes
14answers
2k views

When is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation?

When reading to an audience, or speaking in conversation, when is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation (assuming you know the appropriate ...
15
votes
3answers
994 views

Why is Sean pronounced Shawn?

I've always had this question about the pronunciation of Sean. Is Sean a word from another language? Is it actually not pronounced Shawn and instead it's some sound between Shawn and Seen? Also, why ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

911: nine one one vs. nine eleven

The US emergency telephone number 911 seems to be almost always pronounced as nine one one whereas the Porsche model and the date are typically pronounced as nine eleven One reason I can ...
10
votes
2answers
596 views

Why did the letter 'o' disappear in the word 'pronunciation'?

Here's my simple description, the verb, pronounce has the letter 'o' in it, which instead disappears in its noun format, pronunciation. Why is that?
3
votes
1answer
8k views

Why is “lawyer” widely pronounced “loyer”?

This pronunciation phenomenon appears to be more widespread than I'd thought. I've always pronounced lawyer as it's spelled (law-yer), but I've often heard people say loy-er instead. It's not ...
-6
votes
1answer
2k views

How do you pronounce 'ate' in American and British English? [closed]

How do you pronounce 'ate' in American and British English? I cannot find it...