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I know that live has several meanings, and two different pronunciations, but I don't know which pronunciation I should use in each case.

Can anybody clarify this?

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If live is a verb (Live long and prosper, or I live in New York City), the i is pronounced the same as the i in "this". This pronunciation is used for all tenses of the verb, and also for the participles lived and living.

If live is an adjective (The band played for a live audience, or Live from New York City), the i is pronounced the same as the i in five. Alive also has this pronunciation.

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  • 4
    I wrote a foobar plugin a while back so blind (or lazy) people can press a button on the remote to have the computer read out loud what song it's currently playing. When I proudly demonstrated it to my blind friend (for whom I'd slaved at the keyboard those many hours), the first thing he did was moan about the fact that it always pronounced "live" wrong when identifying, say, a track from The Who Live at Leeds. Gnashing my teeth, I had to go back and code a workaround! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 4 '13 at 22:57
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    +1. Also, "short-lived" and "long-lived" can go either way: historically they had the long "i" sound of the noun "life" (because the come from it: "short-lived" = "short-lifed", like "green-eyed" and "two-legged" and so on), but nowadays they're very often pronounced with the sort "i" sound of the verb "live". – ruakh Feb 5 '13 at 1:17
  • @FumbleFingers, tried my computers "text to speech" conversion, and getting "live" wrong was probably more than half of all serious pronunciation errors. And I'm sure it got more than half of them wrong, so worse than just guessing. – gnasher729 May 25 '14 at 21:55
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Live can be a verb, or an adjective. When it is used as verb, it is pronounced /lɪv/; when it is used as adjective, it is pronounced /laɪv/.
In the first case, the i in live is pronounced as the i in miss; in the second case, the i is pronounced as the i in hive.

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to live (verb) → short i, as in click, this, in

living (noun) → short i


live (adjective) → long i, as in five, knife, I (also alive)

life (noun) → long i

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