How to say it: nouns and verbs with the same spelling

There are certain words in English that can be used as a verb and as a noun. But be careful! Their pronunciation is different. Let’s look at two sentences:

  1. We have to increase the number of employees.
  2. There has been an increase in extreme weather.

When increase is used as a verb (sentence 1), the stress (Betonung) is on the second syllable (Silbe): in-CREASE. But when it is used as a noun (sentence 2), it is pronounced IN-crease.

Below is a list of words that have different syllable stresses when they are verbs or nouns.

associate, conduct, contract, decrease, delegate, detail, estimate, export, insult, object, permit, present, protest, refund

Sometimes the verb and noun are similar in meaning, but sometimes they are different. Here are two examples:

There are many objects (OB-ject, Gegenstand) in space.
I object (ob-JECT, widersprechen) to the decision.

I was very happy with my birthday present. (PRE-sent, Geschenk)
I’m not looking forward to presenting the latest sales figures tomorrow. (pre-SENT, präsentieren)

Test yourself: pick 3-4 words from the list above. Make sentences with the words as nouns and sentences with the words as verbs. Say your sentences out loud. You can check your pronunciation on the PONS website.

Mindy Ehrhart Krull
About the author

Originally from the US, Mindy Ehrhart Krull holds a master's degree in journalism and has been teaching English and working as an author, editor and proofreader in Germany since 2008.

At DELS, she leads a team of several English trainers and language professionals.

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