-ate Part 1: Don’t Stress It!

A very common problem for learners of English is incorrect word stress in words that end with –ate. In fact, almost every student I have worked with has had difficulty with this. Almost everybody makes the mistake of putting the stress on the –ate ending.

HERE’S THE RULE: Do not put stress on –ate. Put it two syllables before that ending.

So, the 3-Syllable word “celebrate” has stress on the 1st syllable (not the last): CElebrate, not celeBRATE. And the 4-Syllable word “eliminate” has stress on the 2nd syllable: eLIminate, not elimiNATE

Here are some more examples:

3-Syllable words
accurate / delicate / demonstrate / fabricate / fluctuate / isolate / moderate / populate / separate / tolerate / vertebrate / violate /

4-Syllable words
approximate / certificate / communicate / deliberate / elaborate / evaporate / incorporate / infuriate / investigate / negotiate / refrigerate / subordinate /

There are hundreds of 3 & 4-Syllable words that end with –ate, but only just a few do not follow the rule, for example: elongate / interrelate / oxygenate / reinstate / relocate /

5 & 6-Syllable words
There are a few 5 & 6-Syllable words with -ate, and they also follow the same rule:
decontaminate / differentiate / hyperventilate / intermediate / rehabilitate / intercommunicate /

So, with only just a small number of words that do not follow the rule, it means that virtually every time you see a new word with –ate, you can confidently predict the stress.

What about 2-Syllable words?
Most 2-Syllable words that end with –ate have stress on the 1st syllable. Here are just a few (of many) examples: agate / climate / dictate / donate / frustrate / hydrate / inmate / locate / magnate / mandate / migrate / narrate / notate / primate / private / rebate / rotate / senate / translate / vibrate /

However, some 2-Syllable words do have stress on the –ate, such as: create / debate / deflate / elate / equate / estate / inflate / innate / irate / negate / ornate / relate / sedate. Some of these words are used fairly frequently, and perhaps this pattern influences learners of English to follow a similar stress pattern for all other words with –ate.

Now that you know the stress pattern, did you notice something else about –ate endings? Sometimes the “A” sounds like “A” and sometimes it sounds like the reduced vowel sound known as “schwa”. This difference is explained in –ate Part 2.

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