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Word ending -ate | Correct pronunciation

I ate more healthily: I began to moderate my intake of sugar and consumed more moderate amounts of fat.

Did you notice two ways to pronounce the suffix -ate? Well, let’s investigate

You can listen to the first part of the post here.

This post looks at the pronunciation of the suffix (or word ending) -ate. Most words with this suffix are verbs, and they rhyme with ‘ate’: debate, motivate, participate

But when -ate stands at the end of nouns and adjectives, its pronunciation changes. Looking back at the sentence at the beginning of the post, you’ll notice that we say ‘to moderate‘ /eɪt/, but ‘more moderate‘ /ət/.

So let me elaborate:

  • At the end of verbs, the suffix –ate is pronounced like the verb ‘ate’ /eɪt/:
    Don’t hesitate to communicate in English!
  • At the end of nouns, however, –ate is pronounced as /ət/:
    In hot climate, chocolate melts very quickly.
  • The same goes for adjectives: –ate is pronounced /ət/:
    We’ll use these approximate figures to work out a more accurate amount.
  • Adverbs are formed from adjectives by adding -ly. Among others, the following ones are very frequent:
    approximate – approximately
    fortunate – fortunately, unfortunately
    immediate – immediately
    private – privately, and so on.

As you can see, it can get a bit tricky when we have to decide in a split second whether we are using a verb or not. Moreover, some words are quite similar:

  • dedicate /eɪt/ but delicate /ət/
  • emigrate /eɪt/ but emirate /ət/

What’s more, as you saw from the sentence at the top, there is a considerable number of words which can be verb/noun or verb/adjective. They are spelt the same, but the ending is pronounced differently.

You can find plenty of examples on my PDF: ATE_Wordlists

Finally, let’s dedicate just a bit more time to verbs.

An -ed ending adds an extra syllable

When we add an -ed ending after a /t/ sound, we need to sneak in an extra /ɪ/. This makes verbs one syllable longer.

That way, we say

  • create /krɪˈeɪt/ but created /krɪˈeɪtɪd/
  • debate /dɪˈbeɪt/ but debated /dɪˈbeɪtɪd/
  • generate /ˈʤenəreɪt/ but generated /ˈʤenəreɪtɪd/, and so on.

[convertkit form=1405468]

To sum up:

  • If -ate is at the end of a verb, say /eɪt/.
  • When adding an -ed ending to a verb, you add a syllable: /eɪtɪd/.
  • At the end of nouns and adjectives (and their corresponding adverbs), use /ət/.

There are a few exceptions, which you can also find on my PDF. ATE_Wordlists

Listen and practise

Here you can listen to the practice sentences.

Imitate the –ate words separately, then in a sentence. Repeat what you heard several times until you feel confident.

The verbs with the /eɪt/ sound are marked in green.
, adjectives and adverbs with the /ət/ sound are marked in purple.

  1. First, separate the egg whites from the yolks, and put them in separate bowls.
  2. A passionate teacher motivates her students.
  3. We appreciated the fact that he spoke to each of us separately. ate-shoes
  4. You’ll need adequate shoes to participate in the hike.
  5. She did her doctorate in the United Arab Emirates.
  6. He has a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE).
  7. We are seeking to incorporate a corporate lawyer into our staff.
  8. Note the deliberate use of colour to create this delicate artwork.
  9. They donated their private collection to the state.
  10. We negotiated more appropriate conditions with the supplier.
  11. Both estimates quote a price of approximately 2,000 £.
  12. Fortunately, the children were found almost immediately.

Stay motivated and passionate about improving your English! And let me know what words you would add to the lists on the PDF. ATE_Wordlists

P.S.: I recommend reading my post on how good pronunciation makes life easier.
And here is a post on how to pronounce the short vowel sound in /ət/: the schwa.


4 thoughts on “Word ending -ate | Correct pronunciation”

  1. Very clear and organized explanation. The examples are remarkably clarifying and well selected.
    Thanks for the help.

  2. If nouns ending in ate are pronounced it, then why do words such as probate, magnate, agate etc. are pronounced with ate? please clarify..

    1. Hello, Jeremy,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! “Agate” is actually pronounced with a schwa sound, but you’re right: “magnate” and “probate” are nouns, but they rhyme with “ate”, as do “concentrate” and “mandate”. On the other hand, “prostrate” (adj.) breaks the rule as well in that it also rhymes with “ate”.
      The only explanation I can offer is that they are exceptions to the rules. On the PDF I made for this post, I mention a few exceptions. I will add your contributions to it.

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