Smoothtalk Logo
Quick Pronounce Tool

How To Pronounce Words With Suffixes

There are some words that have been created by adding an additional portion to the end of them. These additional parts at the end are called suffixes. They can't stand alone, but adding them to the word changes the meaning and sometimes also which syllable in the word is stressed. In this post we are going to discuss the rules for how American English speakers pronounce words that have different types of suffixes.

In terms of pronunciation, there are two types of suffixes: non-stress-shifting suffixes, and stress-shifting suffixes. If a word has a non-stress-shifting suffix, the syllable that we emphasize when we say the word that has a suffix is the same syllable that is emphasized when we say the word that doesn't have a suffix.

Using Non-Stress Shifting Suffixes

Let's take the word "photo" as an example. Photo is a noun, and it can have different suffixes added to it. Adding the suffix "-s" lets us know that we have the plural form, and doesn't add a an additional syllable.

PHO-to -> PHO-tos

"Photo" is really a shortening of the word "photograph". Photograph is a combination of "photo", which means light, and the suffix "graph", which has the meaning of "write". Adding the suffix -graph doesn't change the pronunciation; photo and photograph are both pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable.

PHO-to -> PHO-to-graph

First syllable is stressed in both words.

Additional examples with words video and radio:

VI-de-o -> VI-de-o-graph

First syllable is stressed in both words.

RA-d-io -> RA-di-o-graph

First syllable is stressed in both words.

Using Stress Shifting Suffixes

"Photograph" can have additional suffixes added to it to create a new word, such as -ic, or -y. Since -ic and -y are stress-shifting suffixes, adding either of them to photograph either of these suffixes will change the which syllable gets the most stress. If we choose to add -y as the stress-shifting suffix, the new word we produce will be pronounced with emphasis on the third syllable instead of on the first syllable.

PHO-to -> pho-TO-graph-y

First syllable is stressed in photo. Second syllable (the third-to-last syllable) is stressed in photography.

Additional examples with video and radio:

VI-de-o -> VI-de-o-graph-y

First syllable is stressed in video.

Third syllable (the third-to-last syllable) is stressed in videography.

RA-d-io -> RA-di-o-graph-y

First syllable is stressed in radio. Third syllable (the third-to-last syllable) is stressed in radiography.

We could instead add the suffix -ic to photograph. Words that have -ic added to them are pronounced with stress on the second-to-last syllable, so we pronounce photographic with emphasis on the third syllable, although we pronounce photo with emphasis on the first syllable.

PHO-to-graph -> pho-to-GRAPH-ic First syllable is stressed. Third syllable (the second-to-last syllable) is stressed in photography.

VI-de-o-graph -> vi-de-o-GRAPH-ic

First syllable is stressed.

Fourth syllable (the second-to-last syllable) is stressed in photography.

RA-di-o-graph -> ra-di-o-GRAPH-ic

First syllable is stressed.

Fourth syllable (the second-to-last syllable) is stressed in photography.

The suffixes -graph, -y, and -ic are just a few of the many suffixes in English. Here's a list of several other suffixes, organized by suffixes which do not cause stress shifts, and suffixes which do cause stress shifts.

Which Suffixes Don't Shift Stress?

SuffixExamples
-alpersonal, official
-domkingdom, freedom
-lyquietly, amazingly
-edcounted, smiled
-erteacher, barber
-etpiglet, eaglet
-esscountess, waitress
-ishsqueamish, ticklish
-ingdancing, waving
-fulhopeful, joyful
-hoodneighborhood, childhood
-lesswireless, seamless
-nesscloseness, grumpiness
-shipfriendship, ownership

Which Suffixes Do Shift Stress?

Third To Last Syllable Stress

SuffixExamples
-aryglossary, library
-ateappreciate, vindicate
-eriecharcuterie, menagerie
-erybakery, snobbery
-cypolicy, candidacy
-eousrighteous, gorgeous
-icalmethodical, empirical
-ifypurify, clarify
-inaloriginal, medicinal
-ityproclivity, necessity
-itiveinitiative, derivative
-izestrategize, organize
-logybiology, geology
-ousperilous, glutinous
-sophyphilosophy, theosophy

Second to Last Syllable Stress

SuffixExamples
-iacafeteria, media
-iallabial, trivial
-ibleaudible, legible
-ic, -icsenergetic, economics
-ianmagician, pediatrician
-iousluscious, envious
-osishypnosis, neurosis
-sionerosion, explosion
-tiondevotion, notion

Last Syllable Stress

SuffixExamples
-adelemonade, parade
-airedebonaire, questionnaire
-eementee, franchisee
-oonmaroon, buffoon
-escecoalesce, acquiesce
-eseVietnamese, Japanese
-ettebarrette, marionette
-iqueoblique, antique

Suffixes, which are parts of speech that don't stand alone but can be added to ends of words, are important for anyone who is trying to change his or her pronunciation. Some suffixes don't cause the syllable that is stressed to change in the new word that is formed, but many suffixes do cause the emphasized syllable to change from one syllable to another.

Many non-native speakers don't shift the stress when they say words that have stress-shifting suffixes. Since native speakers of American English rely on words to be stressed a certain way to help them to understand what you're saying, if you don't emphasize or stress the syllables in a way we are used to hearing, we are likely to misunderstand or not understand what you are saying. Studying and practice pronouncing words that end in suffixes can help you be better understood, since suffixes are so common.


© 2020