6

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?

5

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".

13

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.

  • 1
    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
  • 1
    @PeterShor In fact, pre-fortis clipping seems to apply generally across languages. – Araucaria Mar 10 '15 at 2:53

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