Shifting stress within words ('fourteen vs four'teen)


New Member
English - GA

I've been told that some words in GA English shift their stress depending on their placement in a sentence or phrase.

The example give to me was that of the "teen" numbers (thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc.).

Judy is thirteen years old (thirteen is placed before a noun)
Judy just turned thirteen (last word in a sentence or phrase)

First of all, is this true? Secondly, what is the exact rule for this phenomenon and is there a more specific name for it? Also, where can I find more information on this (links)? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are there any other words or types of words which this applies to or is it only the numbers thirteen to nineteen?

Thanks so much!:D
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    This is usually called stress shift*. The teen numbers are one common example, but it happens with quite a few other words too. The rule is that we avoid consecutive stresses. On its own, the number is pronounced thirteen. When you put it next to the stressed monosyllable years, we don't like to say thirteen years, so we shift the stress one syllable back: thirteen years.

    Here's a discussion by a top expert, Professor John Wells: In his 29 May 2007 entry he discusses a few examples, such as a table made of bamboo, which is (or may be) a bamboo table.

    * Or stress class, which produces cleaner results when you google for it.
    Last edited:
    English- American Pacific Northwest
    This is true! Another related phenomenon I've noticed that relates to this is gemination of the t in thirteen, fourteen, eighteen and nineteen. It seems to me as if the two syllables sort of act as seperate words. Word-internal gemination does not occur in English, but it does occur at word boundaries, and that appears to be what the boundary between these two syllables has become. Rather than thirteen, fourteen, eighteen, and nineteen as they are pronounce in England, Americans essentially say thirt teen, fourt teen, eight teen, and neint teen. pretty interesting how just like 2 adjacent words can become a single word, a single word can become two.
    (a lot should be spelled 'alot' and into should be spelled 'in to')

    (i dont know why i wrote this reply, this thread was active for only one day and that was almost eight years ago)