15 Feb When “-ate” Doesn’t Say “ate”
While the “-ate” ending certainly looks like it should be pronounced the same as the word “ate” (e.g. “I ate a delicious doughnut.”) this is not always the case. There are many different words with this ending, such as “accurate,” “educate,” “graduate,” and “estimate.” Some “-ate” endings are pronounced with an /ə/ (“uh”) sound and others may be pronounced with either /ə/ (“uh”) or /eɪ/ (“ay”) depending on the context.
Verbs with the “-ate” ending are indeed pronounced like the word “ate.” The vowel is a tense, gliding /eɪ/ sound like you find in words such as “day” and “cake.”
Try these sentences, using the /eɪ/ sound for “-ate”:
“I graduate in June.”
“He estimated that it would cost fifty dollars”
Nouns and Adjectives
Nouns and adjectives with the “-ate” ending are pronounced differently. The vowel is produced as a neutral /ə/ sound (e.g. “uh”). This is the sound you hear in the first syllable of “about” or the last syllable of “idea.”
Try these sentences, using the neutral /ə/ sound for “-ate”:
“I’m a graduate student.”
“Can you please give me an estimate?”
Adverbs with “-ate” such as “unfortunately” and “accurately” are also pronounced with the neutral /ə/ sound.
Non-native speakers tend to struggle more with the pronunciation of “-ate” in nouns and adjectives in which the neutral /ə/ sound should be used.
Practice the following words using the neutral /ə/ sound for “-ate”:
The syllable with “-ate” should not receive stress. It should be very light and fast in comparison to the other syllables in the word. Very little movement is necessary when producing the /ə/ sound; be particularly careful to limit the opening of your mouth.
About the Author: Jane Rupp is a speech therapist and owner of Voices of the World Speech Therapy.