Stress

English Pronunciation

-tion/-sion suffix

The -tion and closely related -sion and -ation suffixes are among the most frequently used stress-controlling suffixes in American English. All of these suffixes cause the syllable previous to the -tion or -sion to carry the main stress of the word. This hugely important pattern provides a formula to determine which syllable is likely to be the stressed syllable in an enormous number of words in English.

In addition to studying the following example words to learn these stress patterns, note other commonalities in their pronunciation to help learn the characteristics of pronouncing the suffixes themselves correctly.

-tion suffix: sh sound and ch sound

The -tion is pronunced with an sh sound unless the sound preceding the suffix is an s sound; then the suffix is likely to be pronounced with a ch sound. Of the two options, the sh sound pronunciation is much more common.

-tion suffix pronounced with sh sound
section
/ˈsɛk ʃən/
position
/pə ˈzɪʃ ən/
acquisition
/ˌæ  ˈzɪ ʃən/
-tion suffix pronounced with ch sound
question
/ˈkwɛs ʧən/
digestion
/dɑɪ ˈʤɛs ʧən/
exhaustion
/ɪɡ ˈzɔs ʧən/

-sion suffix: sh sound and zh sound

The -sion suffix is likely to be pronounced with a zh sound when it is preceded by an r sound or a vowel sound (this often aligns with the ssion spelling). In most other circumstances, the sh sound is the more likely pronunciation for the -sion suffix. Since both of these pronunciation patterns are common in American English, care should be taken with the pronunciation of all words containing the -sion suffix.

-sion suffix pronounced with sh sound
tension
/ˈtɛn ʃən/
expression
/ɪk ˈsprɛʃ ən/
apprehension
/ˌæp  ˈhɛn ʃən/
-sion suffix pronounced with zh sound
vision
/ˈvɪʒ ən/
conclusion
/kən ˈkluʒ ən/
decision
/dɪ ˈsɪʒ ən/

Variations of the -tion, -sion and -ation suffixes

The -tion, -sion and -ation suffixes can be viewed as base suffixes for still more related suffixes, namely -tional, -tionally, -sional, -sionally, -ational and -ationally. The syllable stress pattern remains consistent, even when more syllables are added to the word: the syllable previous to the -tion or -sion carries the word's primary stress.

-tional, -tionally, -sional, -sionally, -ational and -ationally stress examples
-tional and -tionally:
additional
emotionally
-sional and -sionally:
professional
occasionally
-ational and -ationally:
sensational
educationally

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Exercises

High-frequency -sion, -sional Suffix Words

High-frequency -tion, -tional Suffix Words

High-frequency -al suffix Words

Sound Practice

fricative sh

fricative zh

affricate ch

Pronuncian Lessons

Lessons  

  

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