I am currently studying syllable stress.

When I look at the word begonia we can split it into 3 syllables with the stress on 'go'. E.g bih-gohn-yuh.

However, the plural form of the word gives me 4 syllables: begonias with the 'go' still stressed. I feel like the nia should be stressed. What is the correct stress of the plural?

Is there a stressed syllable rule for plural words in English?

  • 3
    Syllable stress is often different in Britain, but we would stress the "go" in both singular and plural.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 22:24
  • 1
    Why do you think there are four syllables in the plural? There are not. Try using it at the end of a line of rhymed poetry and you'll see that it rhymes with Sonya’s or own yuhz, not with Mamma mias! :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


Yes, there is a stressed syllable rule for pluralizing nouns in English: do nothing with the stress you didn’t already do in the singular.

The word begonia does ɴᴏᴛ rhyme with Crimea, diarrhea, or the female given name Maria. Instead begonia rhymes with the female given name Sonya, as heard in U.S. Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

That means it normally has three syllables with stress on the penult: /bəˈɡonjə/. So when you make begonias in the plural it’s simply /bəˈɡonjəz/ with the same stress because inflection never shifts a noun’s stress pattern in English. (Remember that in the International Phonetic Alphabet, the letter /j/ represents the consonant heard at the start of the English word yes.)

However, exactly where you choose to put the syllable break between the stressed syllable and the last one is a matter more of convention than of science.

If you believe in unchecked open syllables, it would be pronounced /bəˈɡo.njəz/ — and I bet the justice herself would say [bəˈɡo.ɲəz] there. The middle syllable is pronounced like the word go and everything else is in that last syllable — which is therefore just "nyuh" if you're into that silly sort of spelling pronunciation. Think of it sounding a bit like this might be said:

Maaan, sheez so ginna owe-nya, dood!

Even if you mean hyphenation for line breaks and not actual speech, it would still be written with hyphens as be-go-nias because those are only two places where you are supposed to break up that word to continue it on the next line in typeset text.

  • 1
    I, and in my experience most other British people, definitely do pronounce "begonia" so that it rhymes with Maria. However we also emphasise the second syllable in both singular and plural forms. Whether pronouncing it "be GO nee ah" counts as four syllables, though, I'm not so sure.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 1:13
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    @BoldBen To rhyme with Maria, /mə ˈɹiː . ə/ "muh-REE-uh", you're claiming you say /bɨ . ɡə ˈniː . ə/ so with fake spelling, "big-guh-NEE-uh". I find this ɪɴᴄʀᴇᴅɪʙʟʏ difficult to imagine❗ Could you please point me at a clip where I can listen to this cray-cray-crazy thing⁇ This young English woman is not doing it: she’s saying what I’ve said it's said like. Even this older English genteman is saying it exactly as I indicated. Did you not understand the IPA transcription? Clips or didn't happen.😜
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 1:51
  • @BoldBen Begonia rhymes with Justice SO-nya, while Maria rhymes with She’d never SEE-ya. Those do not share the same rime at all! "REE-yuh" and "SOH-nyuh" do not have same stressed vowel (/i/ vs /o/) through the end of each word and so you cannot rhyme them even with feminine rhyme. What am I missing here? I cheerfully accept demonstrations in perfectly rhymed and metered verse — should you would care to respond with such. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 1:57
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    If Sonia Sotomayor. pronounces her first name to rhyme with "begonia", we need a better example. Every Sonia I've ever heard of is pronounced with a short o as in "on". For rhymes I suggest ammonia and Estonia (IME people pronounce "begonia" with 4 syllables).
    – Rosie F
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 6:45
  • 1
    @user1261710 No. Begonias has 3 syllables. The last syllable is "NYAZ" not "AZ". "NI" is not its own syllable here. Listen to Peter. It rhymes with loan ya in the singular and loan yas in the plural. There are no LOW-KNEE-ASS anywhere. I'm sorry to talk baby-talk but people don't understand IPA.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 14:38

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