Read this sentence out loud (or in your head): ‘Matthew won the contest but I am going to contest the results.’
Did you pronounce ‘contest’ and the second ‘contest’ the same way? If you did, you made a mistake common to many English learners. The words ‘contest’ are actually pronounced: ‘Matthew won the CONtest but I am going to conTEST the results.’
Usually, when we turn a verb or adjective into a noun (called ‘nominalization’), we change its spelling. However, with certain words the spelling stays the same but the syllable stress changes.
For this example, the first ‘contest’ is a noun (meaning ‘competition’) and the second is a verb (meaning ‘to challenge’). So the rules for syllable stress for these types of words are:
NOUN version: stress on first syllable [e.g. EX/port] VERB version: stress on second syllable [e.g. ex/PORT]
This week let’s look at some words related to finance! Try reading the examples out loud.
Noun: IM/port [Ex. One of the top imports into the U.S. each year are automobiles.] Verb: im/PORT [Ex. Many U.S. congressmen would like the country to import fewer products.
Noun: EX/port [Ex. Oil is one of the Middle East’s biggest exports.] Verb: ex/PORT [Ex. China has been exporting more and more products each year.]
Noun: RE/fund [Ex. My computer stopped working, so I will need to get a refund.] Verb: re/FUND [Ex. I’m sorry, but you dropped your computer, so we can’t refund you.]
Noun: IN/crease [Ex. There has been an increase in revenue since we hired our new product manager.] Verb: in/CREASE [Ex. Productivity has increased in the past 6 months.
Noun: DE/crease [Ex. Obama’s popularity has seen a decrease since he was elected.
Verb: de/CREASE [Ex. We need to decrease the number of customer complaints.
Gabi is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Fall Associate. She has spent the past several years teaching ESL in Ireland, Spain, France and the U.S., most recently as a Featured/Recommended Tutor for NYC-based startup Tutorspree. Gabi received her BA in English Literature and French Translation at the University of York, her M.Phil. in Popular Literature at Trinity College Dublin, as well as certification from the University of Cambridge TEFL program. Having lived in eleven countries, and learned several languages as a result, she has a passion for expanding her and others’ cultural and language horizons.