Is pronouncing "ate" and "eight" differently wrong? When I say "ate" it sounds like "ate" itself and when I say "eight" it sounds like "ey-ht" is that a wrong pronunciation? I understand pronunciation may differ from one person to another depending on the accent spoken by the person. But one of my friends told me that ate and eight must be pronounced exactly alike and if you're pronouncing them differently you are pronouncing one of the two words wrong.

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    Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Nov 18, 2017 at 15:32
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    I can't tell what your phonetic-ish spellings mean. Can you look at a standardized spelling system like IPA and try to spell them that way, or suggest some words that ate and eight (or their parts) rhyme with? For me, I say both words /eit/, rhyming with words like bait, date, gait, gate, late, wait, and weight.
    – 1006a
    Nov 18, 2017 at 15:50
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    Good video on YouTube about how eight is pronounced in various accents m.youtube.com/watch?v=3pkHW24RR3A
    – k1eran
    Nov 18, 2017 at 17:51
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    South Indian English has the “tail–tale split” in which eight is pronounced with /eɪ/ (a diphthong) while ate is pronounced with /eː/ (a long vowel). In most other dialects they should be identical (both /eɪ/).
    – Jon Purdy
    Nov 19, 2017 at 23:27

4 Answers 4


Not necessarily. In BrE, ate is sometimes pronounced /et/, and the Cambridge Dictionary gives this pronunciation. Even if ate is pronounced like eight, there may well be subtle differences. In AmE, ate and eight appear to be pronounced the same. However, if you are learning English, I would recommend that you pronounce them both the same (/eɪt/).

Cambridge Dictionary: ate

Cambridge Dictionary: eight

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    Some Americans pronounce ate the British way, but for the vast majority of us, they're homonyms. Nov 18, 2017 at 14:15
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    Of course, some people in New England say et for ate. But in general, there is no difference. They are homophones.
    – Lambie
    Nov 18, 2017 at 14:39
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    Yes - "et" is permissible in the Received Pronunciation, and in dialects - as well as "ate".
    – WS2
    Nov 18, 2017 at 18:40
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    All the dictionaries I looked at say that /et/ is fine in American English, too. Nov 18, 2017 at 20:02
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    actually, I have never heard a British person say I ate and pronounce ate as /et/ . It also is interesting that the link you have in your answer, both UK and US pronunciation list ate as either /et/ or /eɪt/ and clicking on the speaker icon, UK will pronounce it as /et/ and US will pronounce it as /eɪt/ Nov 19, 2017 at 6:40

There are two different possible questions implied here. One is for language learners, and one is for linguistics.

The answer, for the language learner (and native speakers) of General American English and British English (RP or Received Pronunciation) is that 'eight' and 'ate' are entirely identical.

The linguistic nuanced answer is there might very well be some subtle distinctions between the two based on the usual place in a sentence (one is a number and kind of adjective, the other a past tense verb). Or there might very well be dialects or varieties or sub populations that distinguish the two. There are many distinct dialects in the UK and US (many fewer in the US). Some of them say /et/ for 'ate', and most dictionaries specify it as a mainstream alternative to /eyt/ (common enough that it is considered socially 'unmarked'

But spelling is misleading in English. For almost all contexts, these two are identical.

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    @Xlam I think you're taking the opposite of my intention. Spelling in English is sometimes rule based but just as often is merely a suggestion. You should pronounce them identically. The 'i' in 'eight' is misleading you. You don't pronounce the 'e' in 'ate', do you? Or the 'gh'? Don't try to get the pronunciation from the spelling here. Both are pronounced '[mid front vowel][yod glide][unvoiced alveolar stop]'
    – Mitch
    Nov 18, 2017 at 16:14
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    @Xlam I don't know about any "rule in English vocabulary", but the pronunciation of "ate" is /eɪt/ and the pronunciation of "eight" is also /eɪt/. If you pronounce "ate" as /et/, /at/ or /ate/, or you pronounce "eight" as /eɪht/, then you're pronouncing it incorrectly. Nov 18, 2017 at 16:16
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    @TannerSwett "incorrectly" ?!? The penultimate paragraph of above answer explains why it can very well be correct to differentiate between them. It is not as black and white are correct and incorrect.
    – k1eran
    Nov 18, 2017 at 19:11
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    Saying /et/ is incorrect is to ignore the nuance of discussion on the pronounciation of "ate", especially in BrE. See dawn.com/news/576498, for example, which seems to imply that /et/ is falling out of favour in BrE, but it's at least not so patently wrong as to not warrant discussion. Spoiler: I pronounce ate variably as /eɪt/ or /et/. This is perfectly normal in BrE and doesn't raise any eyebrows. Americans look at me weirdly though.
    – Chris Down
    Nov 18, 2017 at 19:32
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    /ɛt/ (rather than /et/) is also perfectly valid RP, so it's not "incorrect".
    – Chris Down
    Nov 18, 2017 at 19:45

Ate, ait and eight are all homophones. Dictionary.com defines a homophone as: Phonetics. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air.

This ultimately leads us to the result that your friend is right.

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    I pronounce dual differently from duel. Am I pronouncing one of them wrong? Nov 18, 2017 at 14:24
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    Pronunciation depends on the speaker. As far as "duel" and "dual" are concerned, their pronunciation must be exactly same. Even Google's dictionary uses the exact same pronunciation for them.
    – user206150
    Nov 18, 2017 at 14:27
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    @HarshSharma You seem to have contradicted yourself there. Either it depends on the speaker, or it doesn't. Dictionaries tend to give the most common pronunciations (except for some British dictionaries that favour RP), but that doesn't mean that they must be slavishly followed.
    – Mick
    Nov 18, 2017 at 14:35
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    Pronunciation varies by dialect, and dictionaries aren't always good at documenting dialectical differences. Nov 18, 2017 at 14:44
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    Both of my pronunciations of dual [duəl] and duel [djuəl] are in the dictionary. So please tell me which one I'm pronouncing wrong. (American English) Nov 18, 2017 at 14:45

In texting some people write m8 for mate.

This suggests, but does not prove it, that the answer is yes.

Further elaborated. At the very least, there is one way to pronounce ate which sounds like eight, so common that made it into the 'textspeak' so that m-8 and m-ate are read in the same way. As shown elswhere, there is an alternative way to pronounce ate where this is not the case but, to my best knowledge, the collective mind of the texting crowd did not go that far to convene on a shorthand m8 for met.

Save-our-souls addition: please consider the debates in the comments below before downvoting or killing this post. (Aside, thanks for the upvotes that have made my reputation stay afloat)

  • Why should this answer attract downvotes? To me it seems to have the same explanatory power as "why was 6 afraid of 7? Because seven, eight (ate), nine...", a well-received answer apparently. Nov 18, 2017 at 19:20
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    IMO, neither has explanatory power. Textspeak isn't regarded as "proper" English so it's very weak evidence. All you've established is that the pronunciation of "mate" is close enough to "m-eight" for the abbreviation to make sense. That doesn't answer the question of whether "ate" and "eight" have the same pronunciation. Also, it could be that adding an "m" on the front changes the sound: for example, adding "bo" or "tho" to the start of "rough" completely changes the pronunciation. In this case, many people pronounce "ate" as "et", but those people don't pronounce "mate" as "met". Nov 18, 2017 at 20:22
  • My answer contained a humble "This suggests, but does not prove it, that the answer is yes." I report a usage that shows that m-ate and m-8 are perceived to sound the same, with the m playing an accidental role here. Inferring that textspeak is only a mark of slovenliness is a far-fetched assumption, IMHO. Also, that English is a language whereby inferences on pronunciation can logically be drawn or dismissed based on spelling would be a novel stance. Quite often there's no other evidence than usage that justifies pronunciations: so an example of usage could indeed be sufficient to answer. Nov 19, 2017 at 17:23
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    You haven't refuted any of the points I made (and note that I said nothing of "slovenliness"). Once again, you've only shown that m-ate and m-eight have similar enough pronunciations for the abbreviation to make sense. And, once again, the "m" is not incidental, because there are people who prounce "ate" as "et" but nobody pronounces "mate" as "met. Nov 19, 2017 at 17:29
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    You should defend your answer in the answer box, not in comments. I am too lazy to read this thread.... well, I'm not but others will be. And thanking users for keeping your rep afloat is not the best or most effective use of space.... just saying. An answer, Kitebuggy's, which I thought was worthier, was deleted by a mod. It's now a comment.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2017 at 18:39

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