By sounding good when you speak a foreign language, you can add some glamour, a bit of splendour, that extra sparkle, even if your grammar and vocabulary aren’t perfect.
Did you just notice three words ending in –our? Even though it is not among the most common word endings, –our is pronounced in various ways at the end of words, so we should definitely take a look at it.
As usual, you can practise at the end. I have also made a free PDF that you can download. OUR_Wordlists
In terms of pronunciation, words ending in -our can be put in two groups.
- Words where –our is unstressed, or a suffix, such as behaviour, colour, flavour
- Words in which –our is stressed, for example four, hour, tour
Let’s start with the more obvious group.
-our as an unstressed ending
- Unstressed –our can stand at the end of – mostly abstract – nouns. Many of those nouns can be verbs as well.
e.g. harbour (n., v.) or humour (n., v.)
- –our can also create a new noun from a verb or another noun.
e.g. behave (v.) – behaviour (n.); arms (n.) – armour (n.), etc.
In American English, the spelling of unstressed –our is –or.
If you are listening to this post, you have just heard that in British English the unstressed ending –our is pronounced as a schwa: /ə/.
For those interested in hearing the difference between British and American pronunciation, here is a link to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, where you can listen to both ways to pronounce colour/color.
-our carrying the stress
A number of short words – mostly consisting of just one syllable – simply end in –our without it being a suffix. Obviously here the word ending –our is stressed.
Spelling of unstressed –our is the same in all varieties of English.
Words in this group are a bit trickier because pronunciation varies due to a couple of reasons:
- whether –our is pronounced as one or two syllables
- weak forms and
- the speaker’s accent
Does that sound confusing? Let’s take a closer look.
One or two syllables
- Four and pour consist of one syllable and end in a long vowel: /ɔː/.
- Your can sound like /jʊə/ or /jɔː/ when it is stressed, depending on the accent of the speaker.
Most times, however, pronouns are unstressed in a sentence. We will look at weak forms in the next paragraph.
- At the end of some basic words like our, hour, flour or sour the ending is pronounced as two syllables: /’aʊə/.
However, as with your, you will normally hear the pronoun our in its weak form.
- British English pronounces –our at the end of French words as /ʊə/, no matter where the stress lies. For example tour, velour, paramour.
‘Our’ and ‘your’: weak forms
Most of the time, when they occur in a sentence, pronouns like our and your are not stressed. Instead, our is reduced to /aː/, and your becomes /jə/. Compare:
Stressed: Our children love handball. And what sport do your children play?
Unstressed: – Do you play any sports with your /jə/ children? – Yes, our /aː/ family hobby is badminton.
To improve your pronunciation, I recommend that you really pay attention when you listen to native or native-like speakers of English, and notice how they say these pronouns in a sentence.
And now it’s time for you to practise. I have marked stressed endings in red; unstressed –our is marked in green.
- With your technology and our expertise we would make a perfect team.
- Just after four p.m. it started to pour down.
- For sweet and sour pork, you need to coat the meat in flour.
- The tour of the city takes two hours.
- We would like to offer our services to your company.
- I think you left your scarf at our house.
- I love tasting exotic dishes and savouring new flavours.
- Would you do me a favour and take this package over to the neighbours?
- Good luck with your English endeavours. It would be an honour to have you visiting this blog again soon. 😊
I wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!