I've checked and can't find any answers. What is the grammatical or unwritten rule for the pronunciations of the suffixes "man" and "men". How do we know if a word is pronounced as /mən/, /mæn/ or /men/. Some examples are freshman, freshmen,policeman, policemen, marksman,Breman, Coleman, German, human etc... If you have any idea please let me know. Thank you.


There are a range of accents out there, but in my experience:

  • The "-man" suffix is pronounced /mən/ - this is true of "freshman", "policeman", "marksman", "workman", "chairman", "tradesman", "swordsman", "postman", "dustman", "foreman", for example.
  • The "-men" suffix is pronounced /men/ - this is true of "freshmen", "policemen", "marksmen", etc.


  • "Handyman" and "bogeyman" are pronounced with /mæn/. The plurals in "-men" are /men/ as usual, though.
  • "Placeman" is /mæn/ in Oxford, /mən/ in Collins and Merriam-Webster. "Madman" varies too. The plurals in "-men" are /men/ as usual.
  • "Superman", both as a philosophical term and as the name of a character in popular culture, is /mæn/.


  • "German" and "human" aren't examples of the "-man" suffix, but both are pronounced /mən/ in line with the usual rule, and their plurals are /mənz/.
  • The word "woman", on the other hand, is etymologically connected with the word "man". Again it is pronounced with /mən/ in line with the usual pattern, although the plural "women" is pronounced with /mɪn/.
  • Family names such as "Coleman" are usually pronounced /mən/ too, although there may be some variation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.