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Word ending -age | Correct pronunciation

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love this image of a vintage Christmas card.

The suffix -age and the word ‘age’ may look like twins, but don’t be deceived: They sound quite different!

To find out more, listen to this post. You can practise at the end and download a free PDF.

O-golden-gate-bridge

The suffix -age usually stands at the end of nouns and some verbs.

In most cases it is pronounced /ɪdʒ/, as in bridge.

Here is a sentence to illustrate the difference:

Despite her young age she is going to manage the project.

But why doesn’t the vowel A sound the same in age and in manage? Well, that’s a matter of…

Stressed A vs. unstressed A

In the word age, the A is stressed and is pronounced the way it sounds in the alphabet: /eɪ/. This also goes for words that rhyme with age, like cage, page, engage, and others.

However, as a word ending (or suffix), –age carries no stress. When unstressed, A becomes “weaker” and sounds like /ə/ or /ɪ/.

This unstressed A is the reason why we say

age-postage

  • age /eɪdʒ/ but manage /ˈmænɪʤ/
  • cage /keɪdʒ/ but package /ˈpækɪʤ/
  • engage /ɪnˈgeɪʤ/ but baggage /ˈbægɪʤ/
  • rage /reɪdʒ/ but courage /ˈkʌrɪʤ/
  • stage /steɪdʒ/ but postage /ˈpəʊstɪʤ/
  • wage /weɪdʒ/ but sewage /ˈsju:ɪʤ/

French heritage

Now, some words with this ending have maintained their French pronunciation. Here the suffix -age sounds like /ɑːʒ/, for example in camouflage, garage or sabotage.

A short note on word stress:
In British English, a lot of words ending in /ɑːʒ/ are usually stressed on the first syllable, while American English normally stresses them on the last one. Let’s compare some examples.

  • 🇬🇧: garage – massagecollage
  • 🇺🇸: garagemassagecollage

So how do I know the difference between message and massage in British English?, I hear you ask. You’re right: it can be tricky. But context is your friend here, as well as verbs and adjectives that typically surround these two words.

Of course /ɪdʒ/ and/ɑːʒ/ are also maintained before an -ed or -ing ending:

age-package

  • package – packaged – packaging
  • damage – damaged – damaging
  • collagecollagedcollaging

As you just heard, -ed is added as a simple /d/ sound without creating an additional syllable. However, -age plus S does require an extra syllable.

-age + s = an extra syllable

The suffix -age ends in a /dʒ/ or /ʒ/ sound. When we need to add the letter S after these sounds, we must slip in an extra /ɪ/ before we can pronounce the /z/ sound.

So whenever we make a plural or talk about a third person in the present, we add a syllable to the end: /ɪz/. And that’s why we say

  • message but messages /ˈmesɪʤɪz/
  • manage but manages /ˈmænɪʤɪz/
  • garage but garages /ˈgærɑːʒɪz/

Please make sure you pronounce the suffix -age and its plurals or third person singular verbs right. But why is this so important?

  • First of all, people need to know if you mean one thing or several, or if you are talking about someone in the past or the present.
  • And secondly, you might confuse your listeners even further if you make a package sound like a cage, or if you turn courage into rage

So now it’s your turn to practise your -age endings in the singular, in the plural, in the present or in the past in part 2 of this post.

And don’t miss this other post in which I talk about the many benefits of good pronunciation.

Here is the audio for part 2.

-age: Practise your pronunciation

To start improving your pronunciation,

  • listen, then
  • pause the audio,
  • repeat the -age words first,
  • then imitate the whole sentence.
  1. I love the vintage feel of that image.age-carriage
  2. At last he managed to find the courage to ask for a pay rise.
  3. All train carriages are fitted with luggage racks.
  4. The hurricane damaged a large percentage of houses.
  5. We would love to buy a cottage in one of those little villages.
  6. What can you cook from four sausages and half a cabbage?
  7. Packaging the glasses in boxes will prevent breakage. age-carton
  8. The average age of marriage in the U.S. is between 28 and 30.
  9. The garages are at the end of the passage.
  10. He sent me several encouraging messages.
  11. Thanks to drainages and regular massages her knee regained mobility.
  12. She used bandages to stop the haemorrhage.
  13. Camouflaging itself among the foliage, the snake remained unseen. age_camouflage
  14. Learning a new language has so many advantages!

You will find many more useful and frequent words with the ending -age on my free PDF. AGE_Wordlists

Through reading, listening and imitating you will soon manage to improve your language.

Keep going!

AGE_Wordlists

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