For words ending in the -ing suffix, is the suffix stressed? Unstressed? Does adding the -ing suffix affect the stress of the other syllables?

Example: (u is untressed, ' is stressed) Deteriorate is (U ' U U '), is deteriorating (U ' U U ' U)? Is it (U ' U U ' ')?

2 Answers 2


It's common to distinguish primary stress from other kinds of stress in English. For example, the word deˈterioˌrate has primary stress on the second syllable but the word deˌterioˈration has primary stress on the penultimate syllable, and secondary stress on the second syllable. In some traditions, the final syllable of "deteriorate" is not considered to have even secondary stress (see my answer here about secondary stress and tertiary stress). So deteriorate can also be transcribed deˈteriorate.

The word deteriorating has no stress of any kind on the final syllable. I don't recall hearing of any speakers who move the primary stress to the penultimate syllable. Its stress pattern would be transcribed as deˈterioˌrating or deˈteriorating (depending on how you transcribe the base form).

The addition of the inflectional suffix -ing is not expected to cause any kind of stress shift, but there might be a few possible exceptions.

Possible candidates for stress shift

indwell, indwelling

I can only think of one marginal case where a word ending in -ing might have a different stress pattern from the corresponding unprefixed form.

In the base form inˈdwell, it seems to be usual to put the primary stress on the second syllable (possibly with secondary stress on the first). The form ˈinˌdwelling however often takes primary stress on the first syllable—at least, when used as an adjective or as a noun. I don't know whether the verb indwelling tends to take the same stress as the base form.

Similarly, the noun ˈoutˌpouring is related to a (rare) verb outpour "pour out" that apparently at least some people pronounce as ˌoutˈpour.

In cases like these, the nouns/adjectives can be viewed as taking stress as a compound (as with the word ˈbabyˌsitting) while the base verbs can be viewed as taking stress as a prefixed form (as with the word inˈscribe).

"Verb-centred Compound Nouns in English and Bulgarian", by Мaria Kolarova (2015), mentions indwelling as an (allegedly archaic) example of a verb-centered compound noun (p. 174).

British English "ricochet"?

The OED entry for the verb ricochet implies that in British English, stress on the third syllable may be more common in inflected forms (ricocheted/ricochetted and ricocheting/ricochetting) than in the base form ricochet (transcribed as /ˈrɪkəʃeɪ/, /ˈrɪkəʃɛt/). I'm not sure what the basis for that statement is, though. It is definitely possible to stress the same syllable throughout the paradigm of the verb: what the OED says is that "In [inflected forms] the main stress often falls on the third syllable, as it does sometimes also in other forms."


The -ing is not stressed, and it does not affect the stress of the word it is added to. The form it is added to is still has a word end (marked with #).

SPE describes this situation by using a boundary # which appears at the beginning and end of every word and phrase. Two words are ordinarily separated by at least ##, where one # ends the first word and the second # starts the second word. -ing is separated from the word it is attached to by a single #, because the -ing is, of course, not a word.

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.