Are there rules that determine if a word changes inflection depending on its part of speech? Some words seems to change inflection whether a noun or a verb, while others are pronounced the same.

I realize not every person pronounces every word the same, but I'm going to throw out some observations I hear commonly. Forgive how I type pronunciations or where emphasis lies--I am not familiar with universal pronunciation guidelines, so the best I know is writing phonetic English.

Words that do change inflection from noun to verb:

  • Contract - CON-tract vs. kun-TRACT
  • Defect - DE-fect vs. de-FECT
  • Precipitate - pre-SIP-i-tit vs. pre-SIP-i-tate
    • Looks like inflection doesn't change on this, but still a single-syllable change in pronunciation
  • Contrast - CON-trast vs. kun-TRAST
    • "What is the contrast between working the day and night shifts?"
    • "How does this contrast with your opinion?"

Words that do not change inflection whether noun or verb:

  • Compare
  • Appeal
  • Scramble
  • 1
    Note that you are talking about the placement of stress, not about inflexion.
    – Anonym
    Nov 13, 2015 at 21:59
  • Can "compare" be a noun? I wasn't familiar with that. I guess in phrases like "beyond compare"? I guess "repair" is a clear example that is more commonly used as a noun.
    – herisson
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:40
  • 1
    I think you mean "stress" rather than "inflection." (Stress is which syllable is emphasized and accented; inflection is the suffixes and other changes used to make different forms of a word, like the -s suffix on plural nouns.) Am I right?
    – herisson
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Since linguists describe pronunciation, but generally treat traditional spellings as a separate, secondary phenomenon, it seems rather odd to them (and to me) that you treat the noun "contract" and the verb "contract" as two different "inflections" of a single word. What is the same between these forms? Not the pronunciation, not the part of speech, and not the meaning. The only things that are the same are (1) the conventional spelling, (2) probably in part the etymology.

I would say they are not the same word, and likewise for your other two examples. So, if there really are cases where a word changes pronunciation depending on its part of speech, you need to find better examples, before searching for an explanation.

  • See edits for "contrast". Also, while I suppose "precipitation" is more common, "precipitate" would be the rain or snow, the result of when it "precipitates".
    – Trevor D
    Nov 13, 2015 at 20:59

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