Whenever I'm teaching private students and we are faced with the word garage, I hesitate a little. Italians have borrowed the term garage, which they pronounce /gaˈraʒ/, to stand for the room/building where they keep their vehicles—also called a box in Italian.

In Italian the place where mechanics fix cars is not called a garage, but an officina. And to confuse my students further, in BrEng a garage [petrol station] is also the place where you can buy petrol/gas (AmEng gas station.)

I hesitate before pronouncing this word, because I know it has several different pronunciations:

  1. /ˈɡærɑːʒ/
  2. /ˈɡarɑː(d)ʒ/ (I think this pronunciation is very similar to the first)
  3. /ˈɡærɪdʒ/

The first syllable is stressed whereas in the following the stress is on the second syllable

  1. /gəˈräzh/ or /ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ and

  2. /ɡəˈrɑrʒ/
    (non-standard U.S. Midwest pronunciation)

And I find myself pronouncing it in at least two ways, which befuddles the students (and makes me sound less credible!) I tell them that garage can be pronounced in more than one way but confess I don't know why. Personally, I blame it on the French :)

  • Can someone explain why garage is pronounced in so many different ways?
  • Which is the older pronunciation?
  • 2
    Numbers 4 and 5 are the same, in two different phonetic notations. But you left out the (non-standard and not to be encouraged) pronunciation from the U.S. Midwest with the extra /r/: /ɡəˈrɑrʒ/. (Although Googling shows this pronunciation is much more widespread than just the Midwest.) Feb 14, 2015 at 22:51
  • @PeterShor Ahh, I was wondering about no.4. Thanks for pointing that out.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 14, 2015 at 23:54
  • 1
    Perhaps the optimal solution is the one I grew up with in Northern Illinois -- /graʒ/. It is irredeemably American, agreed; but it doesn't contrast with any other word in the language and gets the meaning across. In the USA garage can encompass any combination of the meanings, and while we will recognize any other pronunciation as a British accent, we'll recognize the word. Feb 15, 2015 at 2:03
  • 2
    When I grew up in North London, We said /ˈɡærɑːʒ/, and looked down on the lower-class people around us who said /ˈɡærɪdʒ/. But when I moved to Yorkshire, and gradually started talking Yorkshire (sometimes - depends who I'm talking to), I found that /ˈɡærɑːʒ/ seemed alien to it, and adopted /ˈɡærɪdʒ/. Now when I'm in the South and not talking Yorkshire, I don't know which to use: I think I say /ˈɡærɪdʒ/ more often.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 15, 2015 at 12:50
  • 3
    I vaguely remember an American book about life in the beginning of the 20th century. Automobiles were appearing and people were building "garages" to put them in. But nobody was sure how to pronounce this previously unknown word. The Google Ngram Viewer confirms that the word was practically unknown in English in 1900 but rose to half it s current popularity by 1920. Presumably it spread in print. People all over the world would suddenly see it in articles about the automobile and try to pronounce it. It is not surprising they pronounced it differently.
    – David42
    Feb 25, 2015 at 21:28

3 Answers 3


Perfect example of “drift” in linguistics. Americans pronounce French derived words such as “courage” and “marriage” similar to the British way because they were already in usage at the time of separation. For Americans, “garage “ is derived directly from the French, not the English, and thus did not Anglicize it.


You are right, garage is a French loan and at first pronounced in the French way. After some time such words are pronounced in a way that is more conform to English pronunciation.

OALD has three pronunciations for BrE (stress on the first syllable), and two for AmE (stress on the second syllable). Normally the most common pronunciation is given first. So in BrE the French pronunciation is still the most frequent.

  • 1
    I submit that no naive English speaker (unless natively bilingual in French) pronounces "garage" -- or any other word -- "the French way." Furthermore, the American stress on the second syllable sounds to my (American) ear far closer to the French than does the English stress on the first syllable.
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2016 at 12:58
  • But, but, but ... none of those pronunciations in the link is the way it OUGHT to be -- "GAY-rahj".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 20, 2016 at 13:08
  • The link gives the pronunciations in BrE. You can switch to AmE.
    – rogermue
    Mar 20, 2016 at 13:15
  • The first three are BrE, the last two NAmE, none of them "GAY-rahj".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2016 at 2:20

Because /ʒ/ is not yet a full-fledged phoneme of English, so it's unstable. Haj Ross noted that there is an alternation depending on stress between /ˈmjuːsɪˌlɑʒ/ and /ˈmjuːsɪlɪdʒ/, although dictionaries give only the latter. I think that was in A Reanalysis of English Word Stress.

  • I tried reading that paper, but it's far too technical for me. Apparently, one must be well-versed with Chomsky's book Sound Pattern of English in order to comprehend the paper. No kidding :/
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 14, 2015 at 22:17
  • 1
    My current Internet connection is slow as hell and that paper isn't loading—can you give some of the arguments for why /ʒ/ isn't to be considered a fully-fledged phoneme in English? Minimal chains like loose/lose/luge, vision/pidgeon, and shush/zhuzh would seem to be good indicators that it is… Feb 14, 2015 at 23:48
  • 2
    Ah, it finally loaded. He only seems to be saying that /ʒ/ and /dʒ/ are not distinguished word-finally in polysyllabic words, though: /dʒ/ only appears after a zero-stressed schwa, while /ʒ/ only appears after a stressed non-schwa when they come word-finally. He doesn't mention any other positions, but the minimal chains I noted above surely prove that they are distinct non-finally. Feb 15, 2015 at 0:10
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet, ah! shush/zhuzh -- forgot about that one. And we mustn't forget shasha/Zsa Zsa. Good solid minimal pairs.
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 15, 2015 at 1:33
  • 2
    I agree that /ʒ/ and /d͡ʒ/ are separate phonemes, but could I suggest that with some words of relatively-recent French origin [such as garage] English-speakers feel that the soft G ought to be pronounced /ʒ/, while with words that have been with us at least since Chaucer's time [such as courage], the soft G is always pronounced /d͡ʒ/. This introduces doubt, causing speakers to swing between those two sounds. Feb 15, 2015 at 19:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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