I collect a particular type of word. They are multi-syllable words, in English, which are verbs if the stress is on one syllable but nouns if the stress is on a different syllable. For example, prod-UCE is a verb, meaning to create something, whereas PROD-uce is a noun, meaning apples, lettuces etc.
They are all multi-syllable word. I’m not collecting single-syllable words whose meaning changes depending on how they are pronounced (e.g., “now I read the books I read when I was a child”, or “we lead the world in production of lead”, or “a tear in his muscle lead him to shed a tear”).
With two-syllable examples it is often (always?) the case that the noun form has the stress at the front, whereas the verb form has the stress at the back. I’d be particularly interested in any opposite examples.
Below is my collection. Pls let me know of others!
|Word||Meaning 2||Meaning 1|
Noun: typically farm outputs
verb: to create
Noun: somebody you hire
Verb: to take somebody somewhere
Noun: thing made of several parts
Verb: to exaccerbate
Noun: documentation of something, or physical sound recording
Verb: to document something
Noun: somebody who accompanies, or a group (e.g., a consort of viols)
Verb: to operate together
Noun: prayer for the day in Anglican churches
Verb: to bring together
Noun: a development
Verb: to develop
A break or a niche behind
To put behind
Pervert, convert, project, reject, object, subject, permit, extract, desert, defect, contract, construct, import, export, progress, refuse, process, proceed (I recently heard a non-native English speaker talk about using the pro-CEEDs from his house sale.) Some are nice sets with related meanings: insert, extract, implant.
Those are all two-syllable words. Here’s an interesting three-syllable one: envelope. It follows the same pattern: the noun has the stress at hte front (EN-velope) whereas the verb has the stress on the second syllable (enVELope: actually pronounced ‘en-VEL-up’. See below about pronunciation nightmares).
Obviously sometimes, the noun & verb are related (you produce your produce; a reject has been rejected). But other times they’re unrelated, e.g., a legal contract doesn’t involve something shrinking (contracting).
- Perfect. PERfect is an adjective (flawless), but perFECT is a verb (to make something flawless).
- AUGust is a noun, but auGUST is an adjective.
- CONtent is a noun, but conTENT is an adjective.
I recently discovered a word which can be a verb, noun or adjective(!). It’s ‘abstract’. An ABstract is the summary atop a scientific research paper; a painting can be ABstract; and one can abSTRACT the essence of something (rather like extract, or to summarise).
- There are some words in which we change the consonant sound depending on whether it’s a noun or a verb, though the stress is in the same place. For example, abuse. The noun has an s sound (‘child abuse’), but the verb has a z sound (‘to abuse a child’ – rhymes with ‘ooze’). Similarly, an excuse has an s sound but to excuse oneself has a z sound. Refuse is the same.
Most three-syllable examples work a bit differently:
small stones that go on a path
to bring together
to consider as caused by something
An informed guess
to make an estimate
Every other one
(‘we eat on alternate Sundays’)
to take turns
* Maybe here, the stress in the verb is sometimes at the front and sometimes at the back(?)
There are some three-syllable words where the stress is always at the end but the meaning changes depending on whether how we pronounce the last bit. For example:
- Aggre’gate’ is a verb, meaning to pull together. Aggre’gut’ (when we don’t pronounce the last bit like ‘garden gate’) is a noun, meaning the sum total (3-nil on aggregate).
- Dele’gate’ is a verb, meaning to give somebody else a task. Dele’gut’ is a noun, meaning person at a meeting.
- Estimate is like this too: estim’ate’ is a verb, meaning to guess, but esti’mut’ is a noun.
- Gradu’ate’ is a verb, but gradu’ut’ is the person who graduates.
- Associ’ate’ is a verb, but associ’ut’ is a noun.
Those words have cousins which are verb / adjectives:
- Articul’ate’ is a verb, meaning to pronounce something, whereas articul’ut’ is an adjective, meaning able to express themselves easily.
- Consumm’ate’ is a verb, meaning to formalise a marriage, whereas consumm’ut’ is an adjective, meaning skilled and accomplished.
In short, be kind to non-native English speakers! This too will also help appreciate what they’re dealing with.