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10 Words with Alternative Pronunciations

[ssba] Some words don’t like being boxed in by a single pronunciation. In class at Pronunciation Studio, we are often asked whether there is a more or less ‘correct’ version of words like OFTEN, GARAGE and SCHEDULE. The fact is that the idea of ‘correctness’ is often defined by popularity, so here are 10 words with alternative pronunciations, either will do nicely:

1. our

This can be pronounced /aʊə/, to rhyme with ‘hour’, or /ɑː/ like the strong form of ‘are’.

2. often

According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, the commonest pronunciation of ‘often’ is with a silent ’t’, /ˈɒfən/, but you can also say it with the ’t’, /ˈɒftən/.

I often /ˈɒfən/ go for a walk by the sea.

I often /ˈɒftən/ go for a walk by the sea.

3. either, neither

Students very often ask which pronunciation is correct – /ˈiːðə/ or /ˈaɪðə/? /ˈniːðə/ or /ˈnaɪðə/? The answer is you can use whichever one you like better; there is no difference in the meaning.

You can take either /ˈiːðə/ the red or the blue pill, but neither /ˈniːðə/ one will bring you the truth.

You can take either /ˈaɪðə/ the red or the blue pill, but neither /ˈnaɪðə/ one will bring you the truth.

4. privacy

The more common pronunciation is to use the short vowel /ɪ/ in the first syllable, /ˈprɪvəsi/, but you can also use the diphthong /aɪ/ and say it as /ˈpraɪvəsi/.

The actress sued the magazine for breach of privacy /ˈprɪvəsi/.

The actress sued the magazine for breach of privacy /ˈpraɪvəsi/.

5. schedule

The more traditional British pronunciation uses a ‘sh’ sound at the beginning of this word, /ˈʃedʒuːɫ/, but the American ‘sk’ sound /ˈskedʒuːɫ/ is becoming more popular.

Hurry up, we’re really behind schedule /ˈʃedʒuːɫ/!

Hurry up, we’re really behind schedule /ˈskedʒuːɫ/!

6. garage

Words from other languages often cause pronunciation issues in English, such as the word ‘garage’. Some people pronounce it in a French way /gəˈrɑː(d)ʒ/, some in a French-English way /ˈgærɑː(d)ʒ/, and others in an English style /ˈgærɪdʒ/, where the ending rhymes with words like ‘village’ and ‘manage’. The last version is gaining in popularity over the French(ish) versions.

It might snow tonight, let’s park the car in the garage /ˈgærɪdʒ/.

It might snow tonight, let’s park the car in the garage /gəˈrɑːʒ/.

7. envelope

Another import from France is the word ‘envelope’, again the more English pronunciation /ˈenvələʊp/ is more common than the French-influenced /ˈɒnvələʊp/.

Write your name on the back of the /ˈenvələʊp/.

Write your name on the back of the /ˈɒnvələʊp/.

8. scone

A quick poll here at Pronunciation Studio revealed that we all say /skɒn/ rather than the posher-sounding /skəʊn/, but whichever way you choose to say them, you can enjoy them with clotted cream and jam!

Let’s make some scones /skɒnz/ for the charity cake sale.

Let’s make some scones /skəʊnz/ for the charity cake sale.

9. Celtic

In England and Wales it’s usually pronounced /ˈkeɫtɪk/, whereas in Scotland you’re more likely to hear /ˈseɫtɪk/ – the Scottish football team is known as /ˈseɫtɪk/.

The Celtic /ˈkeɫtɪk/ languages still survive in parts of the British Isles.

The Celtic /ˈseɫtɪk/ languages still survive in parts of the British Isles.

10. American stress differences

There are obviously many pronunciation differences between British and American accents – one interesting aspect is that some words take the stress on a different syllable depending on which accent is being used e.g. ˈadult (BrE) and aˈdult (AmE), ˈdebris (BrE) and deˈbris (AmE).

(BrE) Some ˈadult survivors were found under the ˈdebris.

(AmE) Some aˈdult survivors were found under the deˈbris.

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