General Question

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

How do you say contribute?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7887points) November 8th, 2010

What syllable to you put the emphasis on?
Do you pronounce it : CON-tri-bute or con-TRI-bute?
It’s hard to write it out. I say the first one.
Where are you from? I’m trying to figure out if it’s a regional thing.

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32 Answers

marinelife's avatar

“The traditional pronunciation of contribute is with the stress on the second syllable, �con-TRIB-ute�. However, stress on the first syllable is now more widespread and is now also accepted.”

Word Query

OreetCocker's avatar

I say CON-trib-ute and after canvassing the opinions of people I work with, they do too!

MrItty's avatar

con-TRI-bute
Edit: I’m from northeastern US. Born in western Massachusetts, now live near Albany NY.

Seelix's avatar

I stress the second syllable; I’m from Ontario. I’ve never heard anyone stress the first syllable, to be honest.

AmWiser's avatar

Contribute There are 2 ways to pronounce it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I stress the second syllable as well. I grew up in Delaware.

wilma's avatar

con-TRI-bute.
I live in the northern Midwest. I don’t recall ever hearing the first syllable stressed.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Second syllable. Western New York. We all say it the same way.

muppetish's avatar

Californian: I stress the second syllable. I had to say it multiple times in sentences to figure that out.

KTWBE's avatar

Second syllable. Grew up in many places west of the Mississippi.

gailcalled's avatar

Second syllable.

Edit: I’m from northeastern US. Born in the Bronx, now live near Albany NY.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’ve never heard the first syllable stressed. Ever. It would sound strange in the EXtreme.

The word ‘contribution’, on the other hand, can have a secondary stress on the first syllable, and none on the second.

partyparty's avatar

CON-tri-bute… first syllable…
I’m from the UK.

answerjill's avatar

con-TRI-bute
Boston, Mass. area, born and raised in NYC suburbs.
So far, looks like we have a UK/US split?

gasman's avatar

I never heard the verb pronounced stressing the first syllable. I suspect this is an American solecism arising as a backward formation from the noun contribution, which has a minor stress on the 1st syllable preceding the major stress on the 3rd.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Accent on the 2nd syllable. Born in Northern NY, raised in WI, currently in NYC.

gasman's avatar

It’s reminiscent of the way insurance is pronounced—normally with the stress on the 2nd syllable but often with the stress on the 1st instead—chiefly in southern US. Another shift that’s occurred in recent decades. More dumbing down?

Another example: Police —in some regions pronounced “POE-leece”.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

Con-TRI-bute. Minnesota.

gailcalled's avatar

Check out the Latin root for tribute and tributary. Accent is on the first syllable. Add the prefix con.

ORIGIN late Middle English (sense 2) : from Latin tributum, neuter past participle (used as a noun) of tribuere ‘assign’ (originally ‘divide between tribes’ ), from tribus ‘tribe.’

gasman's avatar

@gailcalled Which syllable is stressed often differs between a root and its derived forms, and I see many examples of con- words like contest, content, and consist :

CON-test—a match between opponents
con-TEST—to dispute something

CON-tent—everything that is contained within
con-TENT—happy with one’s present situation

CON-sist—the list of railroad freight cars making up a train
con-SIST—made from specified material(s)

and so on…

In my experience with American English, however, contribute has no such duality of pronunciation and meaning. I only know the word with stress on 2nd syllable (“con-TRIB-ute”), not the first. In the case of the derived noun contribution, stress is on an entirely different syllable, namely the 3rd: “con-trib-BUE-tion”. Rules are elusive.

A similar example to contribute is conform. The only pronunciation I’ve heard for this verb is “con-FORM”. Yet its noun form is “conformation”, meaning configuration—a homophone of “confirmation”, with stress on the 3rd syllable (“con-for-MAY-tion”), similar to “contribution”.

Jeruba's avatar

Second syllable, and I’ve never heard it any other way. I grew up in New England, went to school in the Midwest, live in California, and have attended many conferences attended by people from all over the country (at which exhortations to contribute to the group were common), and I have never heard a single soul use “CON-tri-bute” as a verb. We are speaking about a verb, right?

As with many other nouns and verbs formed from the same roots, the accent shifts when we go to the noun form: CON-tri-BU-tion (third syllable). If you dropped the noun ending, you’d have CON-tri-BUTE, probably accenting the first. But we don’t build words this way.

However (thanks in part to technology, I fear), we are seeing more and more use of verbs in place of nouns, even among educated people. These grate on my nerves, so I am very aware of them. Most common outside of technical jargon, I think, is “invite”:

Let’s in-VITE Joe and Maggie. (verb)
Did you get the IN-vite? (used as a noun in place of “invitation”)

English-speakers seem instinctively to shift the accent, as @gasman points out. There are many other examples: perfume, rebel, detail, permit, address, and so on, not to mention invalid, which is a slightly different case. We shift the accent when we add syllables (invoking old Latin rules, I believe—placing the accent in relation to the end of the word) as well as when we change meanings.

downtide's avatar

I’m from the UK and I say CON-tri-bute. Everyone here says it that way.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Second syllable – born and raised in Portland, Oregon.

Megan64's avatar

Second syllable – born and raised in the Bay Area, CA.

talljasperman's avatar

Con-tribute…. Its Tribute to the community

gasman's avatar

It’s interesting that @AmWiser‘s link to howjsay notes both pronunciations, giving con-TRI-bute first, then “also, American” CON-tri-bute second—contrary to @downtide‘s testimony that the latter is chiefly British. Both Dictionary-dot-com and Merriam-Webster offer only one pronunciation: accent on 2nd.

Isn’t there an old joke about pronouncing the wrong syl-LA-ble?

wilma's avatar

Along the same line of what @Jeruba wrote about is combine when used as a noun, the emphasis is on the first syllable as opposed to it’s use as a verb in “combine”, where it’s placed on the second syllable. Combine, is commonly used instead of it’s longer name, combine harvester.

@Jeruba, does this usage also bother you? I have not ever heard it called a combine harvester in everyday use.

gasman's avatar

OK, I finally trudged upstairs to my library (once vital to me as a peripheral brain—now just a monument to internet-era obsolescence) and consulted the massive Webster’s Third New International [Unabridged] Dictionary, a 1981 printing of the classic 1961 edition—which is still the most recent edition!

All of the listed pronunciations of contribute put the accent on the second syllable. There’s one variant with altered vowels in the last syllable, labeled “chiefly in substandard speech” but this, too, stresses the 2nd syllable.

The same dictionary, btw, lists the noun invite (accent on first syllable, synonym of invitation, discussed above by @Jeruba) but labels it “now chiefly dialect”.

mistik04's avatar

CON-tri-bute…. am from Guyana

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
kh23797's avatar

I’m 64 and live in England. I never heard the first syllable stressed until this last few years, when both CONtribute and DIStribute began to push in everywhere. London and our universities, sources of many UK fashions, are largely populated with eastern Europeans and other foreign nationals who, understandably, have little truck with our traditional (but less than obvious) pronunciations, so I’d look there for the source. The Brits on this forum who say they stress the first syllable are all, I’d warranty, a lot younger than I am.

l1343642's avatar

I live in Ontario, and I have a dude from Saudi Arabia and a dude from India at my work; both say con-tri-BUTE and I can’t handle it.

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