-ate Part 2: How does it sound?


Graduate, or, graduate… Which is the correct pronunciation? Actually, both are right!

The other important thing to know about words with –ate is that the “A” uses two different sounds. The good news is that this is a clear and predictable pattern.

The letter “A” sounds like Long-A (or the name of the letter “A”) in Verbs, but it sounds like the reduced vowel or “schwa” in Nouns and Adjectives.

Here are some examples:
Verbs: calculate / originate / pollinate / refrigerate /
Nouns & Adjectives: certificate / electorate / proportionate / vertebrate /

However, there are quite a few –ate words that can be used as both a Verb AND as a Noun or Adjective. For example:
alternate (Adj & N) / alternate (V)
associate (Adj & N) / associate (V)
coordinate (N) / coordinate (V)
duplicate (N) / duplicate (V)
estimate (N) / estimate (V)
graduate (Adj & N) / graduate (V)
moderate (Adj) / moderate (V)
separate (Adj) / separate (V)

But don’t forget, whether the word is a Noun, Adjective or Verb, the stress always goes two syllables before the –ate ending, not on it.

Finally, as usual, there is always a word or two that doesn’t follow the rule. In this case, I have found a few: concentrate / primate / mandate / inmate / rebate. In these nouns, the “A” sounds like Long-A rather than a schwa sound.

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About Pronunciation Coach
I am a language teacher, with over 20 years of experience teaching ESL & Spanish.

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