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I've come across answers that say something along the lines of, "Well I've only heard people pronounce it ev'ry."

Yeah, well if people started mass-jumping off of buildings, that doesn't mean I'd do it.

All jokes aside, my point is that people pronounce words differently depending on where you live. "Vietnom" versus "Vietnam", "fahr" (one syllable) versus "fire" (fy-yer).

I'm sort of conflicted about even asking this question, because it's something I need to know for a poem. But in poetry it can be okay to bend/break rules, whether it be slightly changing the enunciation or pronunciation of a word, or not using capitalization in the case of haiku, etc.

Still, tl;dr, I was just curious what people on here thought.

If it's only two syllables, why? If "ever" is a two syllable word--why wouldn't it be ev-er-ee?

What would make "ev-er-ee" wrong? Some old rule in a dusty tome buried by the sands of time?

  • Here are some dictionary entries from ODO to start you off: BrE and AmE. The pronunciation guides can be found near the end of each page. Feel free to edit (and link+cite) these definitions into your question. – Lawrence Sep 21 '16 at 4:20
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    The text forms /ˈɛvri/ and /ˈevrē/ both look like 2 syllables to me. The links from this answer to a question I asked about the Queen's English might also be interesting to you. For poetry, though, I'd agree with you that you have, well, poetic license. :) – Lawrence Sep 21 '16 at 4:50
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    As soon as I read your question the good old song by Bob Marley started to play in my mind. Search for "Jammin'", where he sings (in the refrain): We're jammin'... Ev'ry day and everee night.. But this is reggae from a Jamaican guy, whether the same is acceptable in "a poem" is a tricky question. – tum_ Sep 21 '16 at 5:34
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    There are two and a half syllables in "every". – Hot Licks Sep 21 '16 at 12:12
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    @A.Toumantsev What started playing in my head was a song by Terry Jones from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. – Andrew Leach Sep 21 '16 at 12:26
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The word every started out as a contraction of Old English ǽfre ǽlc (each of a group), and the OED gives many Middle English spellings, such as efrec, which only indicate two syllables. Others, such as æveric, do indicate three. It's hard to tell whether they really pronounced it with three syllables, or whether they were spelling it so as to show the relation to the word ever.

If you look at Shakespeare's sonnets, he invariably pronounces every with two syllables. For example, in

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so,

if you pronounce every with three syllables, the line doesn't scan.

The two-syllable pronunciation has existed since Middle English. People who pronounce it evry aren't wrong in any sense.

So to answer your question: If it's only two syllables, why?
Because some people have been pronouncing it with two syllables from the time when they shoved the two words ǽfre ǽlc together to get efrec.

The OED gives both the two-syllable and the three-syllable pronunciations, and I certainly think it's acceptable to use either pronunciation in a poem.

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Every is one of an interesting class of words that are often pronounced with a different number of syllables for emphasis.

The dictionaries generally describe it as having two; /ˈɛvri/ (Oxford British English), /ˈevrē/ (Oxford American English), \ˈev-rē\ (Mirriam-Webster), and that is the more common pronunciations.

But of course there are often several pronunciations found for many words and most dictionaries will only list one or two "received" pronunciations, and every is indeed found pronounced /ˈɛvəri/ and similar.

This is normal enough, vowels (especially schwas) get dropped so it's not strange that most people pronounce the word with two syllables while there are some that still use three. The interesting bit is that many people who pronounce it with two would use three for emphasis, so in saying "I looked at every receipt and every one of them had the wrong price" they would use /ˈɛvri/ for the first every and /ˈɛvəri/ for the second.

Maybe when they (or we, since I would do this) do this we're thinking of the spelling, or maybe we think of it has having three syllables even though we pronounce it with only two and that notion is given voice when we try to emphasise. Whatever the reason, it's an interesting phenomenon.

  • I can't decide which answer to choose; yours or Peter's! I'll make you a deal: I'm asking another question pertaining to syllables, this time regarding "pages". How is "pages" not two syllables? Pay-jez. Pages. If you answer and he doesn't, you get the "Accepted" answer. If you both answer but yours is better, you win. :D – Kyle Smith Sep 22 '16 at 7:52
  • If you've another question, then you should ask another question. (Though I think that might be a duplicate). – Jon Hanna Sep 22 '16 at 9:51

protected by tchrist Dec 28 '17 at 8:43

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