Homographs Part 3

A homograph is a word that has two different pronunciations, and the different pronunciations have different meanings. The words in Homographs Part 1 have a change in vowel sound, and Homographs Part 2 deals with words that have a change in a consonant sound. However, the words here have a change in word stress.

One important thing to know is that changes in word stress often cause changes in vowel sounds, so in some of these words you may notice a vowel sound change, but that change goes with the shift in stress. The primary way that vowels change with word stress is by becoming weaker and reducing to Schwa when they are in a syllable that is not stressed. Here is an example:

OBject (noun – a thing):
–the first syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the strong syllable and has a Short-o sound

obJECT (verb – to voice disagreement):
–the second syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the weak syllable and sounds like Schwa

(The capitalized letters show the stressed syllable, but this is not normal spelling).

Word-stress homograph examples

ADdress (noun – the location of a building)
adDRESS (verb – to write down an address OR to speak to a group of people)

COMpound (noun – something made of two or more parts)
comPOUND (verb – to combine or add)

CONtest (noun – a game or event of competition)
conTEST (verb – to challenge or dispute)

CONtract (noun – a written agreement)
conTRACT (verb – to make smaller in size)

DEcrease (noun – the total reduction in the amount of something)
deCREASE (verb – to become smaller in amount)

DIgest (noun – a compilation of information)
diGEST (verb – to break down food in the stomach)

ENtrance (noun – a place of access such as a door or gate)
enTRANCE (verb – to completely captivate someone’s attention)

EXtract (noun – something taken from a larger work or substance)
exTRACT (verb – to remove or pull out)

INcline (noun – a slope or hill)
inCLINE (verb – to lean, tip, or tilt something)

INcrease (noun – the amount that something has grown)
inCREASE (verb – to become greater or larger)

OFfense (noun – the players on a sports team that attack or advance)
ofFENSE (noun – an illegal act)

PERfect (adjective – something that is as good as it can possibly be)
perFECT (verb – to improve or make something as good as possible)

PREsent (noun – a gift)
preSENT (verb – to show or give something formally)

PROduce (noun – food that has been grown, such as vegetables)
proDUCE (verb – to make or create something)

PROject (noun – a large or extended task or piece of work)
proJECT (verb – to estimate, forecast or predict)

PROtest (noun – an group of people organized to display objection to something)
proTEST (verb – to express an objection)

REcord (noun – a written account of information)
reCORD (verb – to keep or store information for future use)

REfund (noun – the amount of money returned to someone)
reFUND (verb – the action of giving money back to someone)

REject (noun – an item that is defective or inadequate)
reJECT (verb – to refuse to accept something)

SUBject (noun – the topic of a conversation or a book)
subJECT (verb – to cause or force something to undergo a process)

TRANSport (noun – a system for moving objects or items)
transPORT (verb – to carry or move goods from one place to another)

UPset (noun – an unexpected defeat of a champion sports team)
upSET (adjective – to be disturbed or extremely unhappy)

This is not a complete list — there are many other words like this. Also, these definitions are not complete — they are just to help show how the meaning can change when the stress changes. Many of these words actually have several definitions.

Perhaps you noticed that these words start with a prefix, such as, “re-” “com-” or “in-“, for example. Most of the homographs that follow this alternating word stress pattern do start with a prefix.

So now that you know about these homographs, you can keep your eyes open for words with prefixes, and keep your ears open for changes in word stress, and that will help you be less confused with words that are pronounced in more than one way.

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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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