Recently I have been noticing how people say 'Inventory' in different ways, for example when talking about inventory as in a supermarket stock amount, they say it like this:

I would like a report on our monthly inventory gains

''' In-vn-tree '''

Whereas the same person might say when talking about the inventory of a game character,

Your character picks up the health potion and puts it into their inventory.

''' In-ven-tor-ee '''

Why are the vowels skipped out in certain contexts such as these examples?

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    The pronunciations are interesting, but the descriptions of the context don't help. Can you give examples of sentences they were used in? Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 14:51
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    @John Lawler added example sentences. Does this clear things up?
    – Rugnir
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 14:58
  • Dictionaries give the usual pronunciations. I'd always thought that the major split was US / UK. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 15:15
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    @Rugnir: Thank you. A couple possibilities - gaming is an American hegemony context for vocabulary, I'm pretty sure. Also inventory gains is a noun compound, which has different stress assignment rules and may be responsible for part of the stress shift. These variations are quite normal, even for one speaker, from one context to another, from one mood to another, or from one day to another. Variation is the norm; patterns are not always complete. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


It's mainly a British vs Americas difference.

Many (most?) Australians and Brits would say IN-ven-trie, stressing the first and third syllables. And the ven is really short, almost a vn.

Americans tend use secondary stress, so in-ven-TOR-ie.

Compare traditional pronunciations of

  • Stationery
  • Dictionary
  • Secretary

In British English they traditionally have no stress on the vowel before rie so STAY-shun-rie DICK-shun-rie and SECK-re-trie.

The spread of American cultural hegemony plus the promotion and acceptance of regional (especially urban) culture has made modern pronunciation not so cut and dried. So pockets of North American English will pronounce them differently from the rest, the same goes for British and other English speakers.

Also I've noticed occasional difference in pronunciation by the same speaker when using inventory as a noun or a verb.

Edit: I found a reference with UK/US pronunciation examples http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/inventory

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    Of note is the specific example on the same site pertaining to my first example; pronouncing 'Inventory Control' I feel it does show a certain difference. dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/…
    – Rugnir
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 15:57
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    The noun-verb pronunciation difference is a favourite of mine. There are a lot of examples - envelope, object, default, etc.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:45
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    @OrangeDog: Not "envelope", because the verb doesn't have a trailing "e". Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 21:56

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