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How to pronounce words with the suffix ‘-ial’

When I studied linguistics at the university, my favorite class was Phonology. During the class, we would get lists of words in different languages, try to figure out the common denominator between different pronunciation patterns, and discover the rule behind it. I loved it. I used to look at the board, process all the sounds in my head, say them softly out loud, and pretty quickly I’d have the answer. I was almost always the first to raise her hand.

So, when I was sitting at home the other day preparing an exercise for my students, I noticed that the suffix ‘ial’ in words like ‘memorial‘ didn’t sound the same as the ending in words like ‘confidential‘, and I immediately got into my ‘phonology student’ mode.  I had to find out why this happens!  My heart started beating with excitement, I stared at the computer, ignored all sounds around me (including my daughter’s voice asking for water), processes the words and BOOM – I had the answer.

I figured that knowing this rule would not only help you pronounce any word with the suffix ‘-ial’ correctly, but would also bring some sense into this very inconsistent language. Here’s what I discovered: (and don’t miss out on my free practice below)



Hi there, it’s Hadar. And this is the Accent’s Way, your way to finding clarity, confidence, and freedom in English. And today we are going to talk about how to pronounce long words. Like antidisestablishmentarianism. No, not this word. But we are going to discuss how to pronounce words with three, four, or more syllables.

Usually, longer words in English have suffixes. What is a suffix? A suffix is this a little addition to the word, it’s a small unit that you add to the end of the word. And it turns the word into a different one, a new word. For example, if you take the word “wonder” and you add ‘ful’, ‘ful’ as the suffix, you get “wonderful”. Or “possible” – when you add ‘ity’ turns into “possibility”.

Now the one thing you need to remember, or probably one of the most important things about English pronunciation, is where you place the stress in a word. What is a stress? A stress is the one syllable that sticks out the most, it’s the most dominant syllable, and it’s usually longer, louder, and higher in pitch. For example, in the word “possible” the stress falls on the first syllable – ‘po’ – “POssible”. But here’s the thing, once I add the suffix ‘ity’, it changes the stress – the placement is changed. So it turns into “”possibility.

So let’s deduce from this the general rule. In most words with suffixes – that’s relevant for most suffixes, not all of them – once you add the suffix, it changes the position of the stress to the one syllable before the suffix. So no matter where the stress is at the beginning, once you add the suffix, the stress falls on the one syllable before the suffix, the one syllable to the left of the suffix.

Now let’s go through a few suffixes, how to pronounce the suffix, and I’ll give you example words. Let’s stay with the ‘ity’ suffix. Now, listen to the pronunciation of the suffix. The Y turns into an ‘uh’, the T is a flap T, so it’s a D sound; and then a high E the end – ‘uhdee’. ‘possiBI-l’dee’. ‘acTI-v’dee’. ‘responsiBI-l’dee’. You see, it’s not “resPONsible”, it’s ‘responsiBI’ – this is the primary stress – “responsiBIlity”.

Let’s take a suffix ‘ical’, as in “alphabetical”. The suffix is ‘ical’, primary stress one syllable before the suffix – ‘alphaBE-d’k’l’. ‘poLI-d’k’l’. ‘psychoLO-g’k’l.’ “psychological”.

Let’s take the suffix ‘logy’ ‘logy’, as in “biology”. ‘biO’ – primary stress, ‘ah’ open ‘ah’ as in “father”, and then ‘l’gee’. Although there is an O here, it’s not ‘biolOgy’, it’s not ‘lOgy’. And it’s definitely not ‘bioLOgy’, right? It’s ‘biO-l’gee’. ‘techNO-l’gee”. ‘sociO-l’gee’.

And finally, let’s take the suffix ‘meter’ ‘meter’, as in “kiLOmeter”. “paRAmeter”. Not “paraMEter”, the stress falls on the one syllable before the suffix, and suffixes are usually reduced. “paRAmeter”. “therMOmeter”.

All right, that’s it. I hope this was helpful. And if it was, please share it with your friends. Come over to my website and subscribe to keep getting more great content every single week. And that’s it for today.

Have a wonderful week. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
79. How to pronounce words ending with '-ial'

You always hear me say that in order to assimilate a new topic you have to practice it. This time I decided to do something about it!

‘-ial’ Suffix Pronunciation Practice

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