Why is it that "appreciate" is pronounced as though it were "appreshiate?"

  • 1
    It isn't, at least around here (western US).
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:50
  • 1
    @jamesqf: how do you pronounce it? "a-PREE-see-eight"?
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 23:54
  • The penultimate syllable is typically pronounced (in the US) as either "she" or "see", or possibly somewhere in-between. Even a given speaker may not be consistent, varying with the context and the speed/casualness of speech.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 2:02
  • 1
    Are you asking why the 'c' is pronounced as a 'sh' and not a 's' or ar you asking why it isn't pronounced as a hard 'c', that is closer to a 'k'?
    – BoldBen
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


In general, English words spelled with "ci", "ti" or "si" before a vowel letter are often pronounced with a "sh" sound /ʃ/ rather than a "s" sound /s/. This phenomenon is called "palatalization," and it is described in the answers to the following questions:

The answers I linked to above mostly discuss words like social /ˈsoʊʃəl/ and initial /ɪˈnɪʃəl/ where there is no distinct "i" sound after the /ʃ/. However, there are also some words where "ti" or "ci" before a vowel letter is pronounced as /ʃi/, the combination of the "sh" consonant and a short unstressed "ee" sound (in some older British dialects, the sound used in words like this was more like "ih"). This includes words like associate (v.) /əˈsoʊʃieɪt/, appreciate /əˈpriːʃieɪt/, and initiate (v) /ɪˈnɪʃieɪt/.

It seems that this pronunciation is used for words ending in -iate, as well as further derivatives of these such as words ending in -iation. More generally, a pronunciation with /ʃi/ often seems to be possible when the following vowel letter represents an "unreduced" vowel sound like /eɪ/, /oʊ/ (ratio), /ɒ~ɑ/ (preciosity), /ɛ/ (conscientious), or /æ/ (partiality).

For some of these words, a pronunciation with /si/ is also possible; you should check a dictionary to see if that is the case for any particular word. For example, the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists an alternate pronunciation with /si/ for associate, but not for appreciate or initiate.

Another reason to check the dictionary: some words with similar spellings are never pronounced with /ʃ/, such as pronunciation and calcium, for which the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists only the pronunciation with /si/.

By the way, this kind of palatalization can also affect many other words such as those spelled with "ce" (ocean); it generally occurs in words spelled with t, c, ss, s, or z or before i or e followed by another vowel letter (a non-exhaustive list of possible environments for palatalization: "ia", "ie", "io", "iu", "ea"), resulting in pronunciations with fricatives like /ʃ/ or /ʒ/.

When "t" comes after the letter "s", it doesn't palatalize to /ʃ/ but to /tʃ/ (as in "Christianity" /krɪstʃiˈænɪti/). This rule also applies to words ending in -stion, like "question" /kwɛstʃən/.

Another, slightly different kind of palatalization occurs in words spelled with ss, s, z, t, or d before unstressed "long u" (often in the ending "-ure"), resulting in pronunciations with fricatives like /ʃ/ or /ʒ/ or affricates like /tʃ/ or /dʒ/.

  • In retrospect, the oddest example of pronouncing a 'c' as 'sh' in my experience is the way people in southeast Texas (where I grew up) pronounced 'grocery': as a two-syllable word with a long 'o' in the (stressed) first syllable and a long 'e' in the second syllable, as if the word were spelled 'groash-ree'. Compare that to the pronunciation of 'groceries' by Jerry Reed (who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia) at 0:57–1:00 of his song 'Amos Moses', where there is at least a hint of a mushy 's' sound in the word.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 17:39
  • 1
    @SvenYargs, that's exactly the pronunciation I grew up with in DeKalb, IL (right on the isogloss bundle separating Northern from Midlands). /'groʃristor/ three syllables. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:24

Take a look at this video. It seems that you can also pronunce it as in "see".


  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. Please take the tour and when you have a moment, read-up in the help center about how we work. Not a bad start, enjoy the site. Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 17:50

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.