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.
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 /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/
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 – massage – collage
- 🇺🇸: garage – massage – collage
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:
- package – packaged – packaging
- damage – damaged – damaging
- collage – collaged – collaging
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.
- I love the vintage feel of that image.
- At last he managed to find the courage to ask for a pay rise.
- All train carriages are fitted with luggage racks.
- The hurricane damaged a large percentage of houses.
- We would love to buy a cottage in one of those little villages.
- What can you cook from four sausages and half a cabbage?
- Packaging the glasses in boxes will prevent breakage.
- The average age of marriage in the U.S. is between 28 and 30.
- The garages are at the end of the passage.
- He sent me several encouraging messages.
- Thanks to drainages and regular massages her knee regained mobility.
- She used bandages to stop the haemorrhage.
- Camouflaging itself among the foliage, the snake remained unseen.
- 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.