Pronunciations that I recommend

An English word which non-natives often pronounce differently from natives is recommend. Non-natives often pronounce the beginning of the word as if it were like reported or reaction. But natives pronounce this word as if it began with wreck. In other words, the first vowel is the ‘open e’ sound [ɛ] which is found in red, dress, health, said, etc:

The first and last syllables are both stressed, and separated by a little colourless ‘schwa’ vowel ə. The final syllable will get the main intonation accent if the word is said alone as a one-word phrase (as in the above clip, and in the audio clips of dictionaries). This means that the word sounds like wreck ə MEND. (In the transcription of eg the Collins and Merriam-Webster Learner’s dictionaries, it’s /ˌrɛkəˈmɛnd/.)

There’s a handful of familiar re- verbs with the same pattern (ie three syllables, strong-weak-strong; the vowel of wreck in the first syllable; and the potential for a heavy accent on the end). They are: recommend, represent, resurrect, recollect (these also have the wreck vowel in the final syllable too), plus reminisce. To these we might add referee – basically a noun, but also used as a verb, as in ‘Who’s going to referee?’

Here are these six verbs:


Further notes

A much less familiar re- verb that follows the same pattern is reprehend. More common is the adjective derived from it, reprehensible (Collins/MWL: /ˌrɛprɪˈhɛnsəbəl/).

For those who like rules, and are comfortable with traditional dictionary symbols, John Wells wrote a detailed blog post about the prefix re-, here.


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