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What is the correct way to say both of these words?

  1. finite
  2. infinite

Is finite pronounced as fai-nai-te with the long i, and infinite as in-fih-nih-te with the short i sound?

By the way, English is not my mother tongue :)

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    When you want to contrast the two words, such as in a sentence like "X is finite, but Y is infinite", people will often pronounce "finite" like /faɪnaɪt/ (the usual way) and "infinite" like /ɪnfaɪnaɪt/ (rhyming with "finite") with strong emphasis on the first syllable. In any other circumstance, though, "infinite" is indeed pronounced /ɪnfənɪt/, as stated in pyobum's answer.
    – senshin
    Jan 14 '15 at 5:56
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In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), finite is /faɪnaɪt/ and infinite is /ɪnfənɪt/.

In case you are unfamiliar with the IPA, "finite" rhymes with "skylight." Both of the vowel sounds are the "long i," as you put it.

You might hear "infinite" pronounced in two slightly different ways. The first way rhymes closely with "run it" (in-fuh-nit) and the second way rhymes more closely with "win it" (in-fin-it). The stress in either pronunciation will fall on the first syllable.

If you are (or are willing to become) familiar with the IPA and its pronunciations, you can find a helpful tool here that transcribes most English words into their IPA form.

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    Thanks for the edit! I had an uncharacteristic "brain slip" when I put Internet instead of International. I hope that my answer was helpful to you!
    – pyobum
    Jan 14 '15 at 2:03
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There are three words here: finite, infinite, and infinity. Here are the pronunciations (mine; I am a native English (general American dialect) speaker):

  • finite is pronounced [ˈfa͡ɪːˌna͡ɪːt] (that is, [FIE-nite]). It is primarily an adjective that means (non-mathematically) "having limits". It has two syllables.
  • infinite is pronounced [ˈɪ̃nˌfə.nɪt] (IN-fuh-niht) or [ˈɪ̃nˌfɪ.nɪt] (IN-fih-niht) (I use both, interchangeably). There is, more rarely, [ˌɪ̃nˈfa͡ɪː.na͡ɪːt] (in-FIE-nite), which I'll mention later. It is also primarily an adjective that means (again, non-mathematically) "without limit". All pronunciations have three syllables.
  • infinity is pronounced [ɪ̃nˈfɪˌnɪ.tiː] (in-FIH-nih-tee). It is a noun and refers to an abstract quality without limits. It has four syllables.

Please note the part-of-speech and syllable count in particular. This is why I mention all three words. I think you were confused.


Note: although technically equivalent, there's nuance in how infinite is used in mathematics.

The contrasting [ˌɪ̃nˈfa͡ɪː.na͡ɪːt] is used to describe something which we want to be clear is not finite (e.g. what we'd call the one-point compactification of the reals or the complex plane).

The more common pronunciations ([ˈɪ̃nˌfə.nɪt] and [ˈɪ̃nˌfɪ.nɪt]) are used more generally, such as to express cardinality (e.g. "there are an infinite number of primes").

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