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Commonly Mispronounced Words for English Language Learners

Below are some words that English language learners often pronounce incorrectly. Have your students practice saying the words, and then have them read the sentences in the practice activity.

Words ending in “ous”
various, serious, nervous, obvious, previous
What to remember: The “ous” rhymes with “miss” not “us” or “mouse.”

Words ending in “ion”
information, section, decision, population, association, organization, position, commission
What to remember: The “tion” or “sion” is pronounced /ʃən/.  It sounds similar to the word “shin.”

Words ending in “ate”
private, separate (adj and verb), demonstrate, concentrate, corporate, initiate, negotiate, adequate
What to remember: The general rule is that verbs rhyme with “eight” and nouns and adjectives rhyme with “it.”

Words ending in “ance” and “ence”
violence, dependence, experience, conference, evidence, resistance, performance, importance
What to remember: Many words ending in “ence” and “ance” end with the sound /əns/.

Words with the /dʒ/ sound in the middle of the word
educate, education, graduate, graduation, soldier, individual, procedure
What to remember: All these words have the /dʒ/ sound in the middle (like the first sound in the word “German”).

Words with silent letters
receipt, answer, vegetable, towards, camera, salmon, basically, physically, typically, February, laboratory, muscle, temperature, corporate, average, difference, often, Wednesday, whistle, castle

Words with a “ch” that sounds like a “k”
chemical, mechanical, psychiatry, ache, technique, chaos

Words that change stress depending on whether they are a noun or a verb
conduct, attribute, combat, conflict, contract, decrease, increase, impact, insult, object, permit, progress, refund, reject, subject, suspect, transfer
What to remember: If it’s a noun, the stress goes on the first syllable. If it’s a verb, the stress goes on the second syllable.

Words borrowed from French
ballet, valet, buffet, merlot, chalet
What to remember: The “t” is silent in these words.

Possessive pronouns
myself, yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves
What to remember: The stress goes on the second syllable.

Teens and Tens
fourteen, forty, fifteen, fifty, sixteen, sixty, seventeen, seventy
What to remember: For teens, the stress goes on the second syllable. For tens, the stress goes on the first syllable.

Words with a “t” that is cut off and not pronounced
button, mountain, certain, curtain, fountain, important
What to remember: We typically don’t pronounce the “t” in these words. Instead, we cut the sound off by restricting air flow in the vocal tract.

Words with a “t” pronounced like a “d”
better, butter, turtle, later, literature, bottle, computer
What to remember: In American English, we typically pronounce the “t” as a “d” in these words.

Words with the /ʊ/sound
put, could, should, would, wood, took
What to remember: All of the words above have the same vowel sound as the word “good.”

Words with confusing word stress
hotel, located, engineer, contributed, appear, control, museum, complicated, pursue, reward, until, upstairs, Halloween
What to remember: These are some words that typically give students problems with word stress.

Additional words (miscellaneous)
comfortable, recipe, cousin, iron, elite, purpose, necessity, nature, natural, drawer, jewelry, lawyer, dessert, desert, loose, lose, dangerous, popular, menu, alien, capture, encourage, glove, hurry, mayor, major, measure, naked, pure, stomach, touch, evil, women, extraordinary, bargain, tongue, curious, bird, beard, bear, beer, chef, sugar, ask, war, blood, floor, pint, rural, murder, vulnerable, scissors, status, surface, ton, Europe, European


Commonly Mispronounced Words Practice

1. He got an education and graduated on time.
2. There was a large increase in our Q3 sales numbers.
3. I would if I could, but I don’t know if I should.
4. They were desperate to investigate the private lives of the political candidates.
5. He often felt uncomfortable looking at the camera and talking about the government.
6. I think your suspicions about the assassination are ridiculous.
7. The hotel is located near the museum.
8. The police investigated the rural murder.
9. Stanley attributed his success to his positive attributes.
10. I had a pleasant evening. We went to an Italian restaurant that had valet parking and a delicious buffet. Then we went to the ballet.
11. He said he would contact the lawyer himself.
12. Please don’t subject us to any more. We’re tired of this subject.
13. We were met with a dangerous amount of resistance.
14. I thought there were 14 types of desserts, but there were really 40.
15. All our elite engineers contributed to this project.
16. She asked for a refund, but they wouldn’t refund her money.
17. They typically open the laboratory in February.
18. I’m nervous about the status of the convention.
19. A lot of blood was shed during the war.
20. I don’t understand the purpose of these seasonal measures.
21. We’re encouraging them to hurry.
22. Once the chaos started, it was tough to stop the crisis.
23. Are you certain that they were captured in the mountains?
24. There is a lot of resistance in our manufacturing facilities.
25. I think this is a legitimate necessity.
26. Many women thought the mayor was pure evil.
27. Raw salmon is delicious.
28. They are extraordinary European women.
29. The museum appears to have 40 major attractions.