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Consider the following statements:

  • There has been a 10% decrease in the value.

  • The value may decrease 10% next month.

In the first sentence, decrease is a substantive while it's a verb in the second one. There's no way to distinguish their class other than by the context.

That's what I thought until a friend insisted that, in these cases, susbtantives must be written as 'decrease and verbs de'crease, which, in over 8 years of study, I've never seen before. He just won't accept it doesn't exist. Therefore, is it even right? If not (I'm confident it's not!), how can I prove him it's not a thing?

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I think your friend is talking about pronunciation rather than writing.

In speech, when "decrease" is a noun, the stress goes on the first syllable: "decrease". When "decrease" is a verb, the stress goes on the second syllable: "decrease". The writing does not distinguish them.

Many English verbs follow this pattern. There is a tendency in English to put the accent of a noun on the first syllable, and a countertendency to put the accent of a multisyllable verb on the second syllable. This is a tendency, not a rule (like most things in English).

Here are some more examples:

The suspect is in custody. The police suspect that he robbed a bank.

If you don't object, I'll just throw that object into the garbage can.

George rejected my screenplay. He threw it into pile with all the other rejects.

There's a new book coming out under this publisher's imprint. It's about how geese are imprinted with their mother's appearance shortly after birth.

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  • Ah, I'm pretty sure it's what his book reads. He insisted it was a spelling rule nonetheless.
    – Nacib Neme
    Mar 2, 2015 at 18:36

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