188: Heteronyms: 'Lead' rhymes with 'read'

AND 'lead' rhymes with 'read'!


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 188th episode.

Sometimes inspiration appears and it just must be followed. At least that's how I feel about this episode. I had a different episode planned, but then I was working on finalizing an upcoming presentation in which I had decided to add a bit of content about heteronyms. Then, around the same time, I came across a picture on the Grammarly Facebook page of a confused looking man in a crowd. The caption read: "Lead rhymes with read. Lead rhymes with read." Or it could have been: "Lead rhymes with read. Lead rhymes with read."

Ah, there's our friend, the heteronym. A heteronym is a set of words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently, like l-e-a-d being pronounced as lead--long e--when it's being used as a verb, and lead--short e--when it's being used as a noun, or r-e-a-d being pronounced as read--long e--when it's being used in the present tense and read--short e--when it's being used in the past tense.

Lead and lead and read and read don't follow any convenient pronunciation pattern, you just need to know those words. But some heteronyms do follow a pattern. Which ones? The 2-syllable nouns, adjectives and verbs and the -ate suffix both have very handy patterns.

Today, we're going to talk about 2-syllable nouns, adjectives, and verbs, and 2-syllable heteronyms.

The general syllable stress pattern for 2-syllable nouns and adjectives is that they're usually stressed on the first syllable. 2-syllable verbs are usually stressed on the second syllable. Lot's of words fit in this pattern.

Some 2-syllable nouns are:


As expected, all of those words are stressed on the first syllable.

Some 2-syllable adjectives, also stressed on the first syllable, are:


The following 2-syllable verbs are all stressed on the second syllable, just as we'd expect:


So we have our basic pattern of 2-syllable nouns and adjectives usually being stressed on the first syllable, and 2-syllable verbs usually being stressed on the second syllable.

What happens with the word spelled r-e-c-o-r-d? Well, without context to tell us whether the word is a noun or a verb, we don't know if it's 'record or re'cord. Same with the word spelled o-b-j-e-c-t. Is it 'object or ob'ject? Unless we know the part of speech, we can't know the pronunciation.

Like many parts of English pronunciation, words that are heteronyms must be memorized. Don't worry, though, we're here to help! The free 2-syllable word stress lesson on Pronuncian.com has a link to exercises that subscribers can access that list the most-frequently used 2-syllable nouns, adjective, verbs, adverbs, and heteronyms! I'll link to that free lesson from this episode's transcript page. Or you can also search 'heteronym' in the search box on Pronuncian to find it as well.

The exercises I mentioned also list how frequently the words are used in each part of speech. That helps you to know just how important a particular word is. These exercises are really beneficial for helping you learn English pronunciation, and your subscription, which gives you access to all this extra content, helps keep Pronuncian.com alive and growing.

Okay. Are you ready to practice and memorize some 2-syllable heteronyms?

I'll say the noun/adjective word first, with the first syllable stressed, then the verb, with the second syllable stressed. Let's go!


To find this episode's transcript page, go to www.pronuncian.com/podcast. Then click "episode 188." I'll include the lead/lead, read/read image there, too, so you can see it. It's really pretty cute.

That's all for today, everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn. Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.