This was originally posted on January 17, 2017 at http://blogdisal.com.br/site/pronunciation-ate-endings-higor-cavalcante/
Hello, everyone! And Happy New Year! May 2017 be our best year yet.
As I said in my first post, my contributions here on BlogDisal will all focus on language development for teachers. And, as promised, we’ll start today focusing on this somewhat troublesome item of pronunciation: the –ATE ending.
Say it to yourself: certificate, chocolate, private, appropriate.
Did the –ATE in the words above sound /eɪt/ to you?
Nouns and adjectives
The vast majority of nouns and adjectives that end in –ATE in English will not sound like the verb ate (past of eat) at all, but will have a schwa sound (/ə/) instead of /eɪ/. Certificate, therefore, should be pronounced /sərˈtɪfɪkət/, never /sərˈtɪfɪkeɪt/, at least as a noun. (To listen to the noun certificate, click on this link to Cambridge Dictionary Online: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/certificate). The same happens to the noun chocolate (/ˈtʃɑːklət/) and to the adjectives private (/ˈpraɪvət/) and appropriate /əˈproʊpriət/.
So you’re a /ˈpraɪvət/ teacher, not a /ˈpraɪveɪt/ one. That’s important.
But does that mean –ATE is never pronounced /eɪt/? No, not at all! Verbs that end in –ATE will end in /eɪt/, as are the cases of communicate /kəˈmjuːnəkeɪt/, update /ʌpˈdeɪt/, create /kriˈeɪt/, debate /dɪˈbeɪt/ etc.
Verbs, nouns and adjectives with the same spelling
How about words like estimate and separate? /ət/ or /eɪt/?
Well, that depends.
When estimate, for example, is a verb, as in the sentence We estimate ‘Inglês para professor 2’ will have been published by July 2017, the -ATE will be /eɪt/. If, however, estimate is a noun, as in Can you give us an estimate of when ‘Inglês para professor 2’ will be available?, the sound of the –ATE ending will be /ət/. In short, the verb will be /ˈestəmeɪt/ and the noun will be /ˈestəmət/. Simple, isn’t it?
Separate works the same way. In Let’s separate now and meet up later, for example, separate is a verb and should be pronounced /ˈsepəreɪt/. However, in a sentence such as We have separate bank accounts, separate is an adjective and should therefore be pronounced /ˈsepərət/.
Yes, there are exceptions, of course. But not that many.
Very short nouns – those with just one syllable – will frequently end in /eɪt/, not /ət/. Examples of this: gate /ɡeɪt/, mate /meɪt/, plate /pleɪt/, fate /feɪt/, and a few others. Longer nouns may also occasionally end in /eɪt/, like mandate /ˈmændeɪt/, for example.
Remember: -ATE does not always sound /eɪt/: in nouns and adjectives it’ll usually be pronounced /ət/ instead. When not sure, make sure you look the word up in a good dictionary.