The English language is full of words that sound similar to each other but have wildly different meanings and different histories. Such is the case with accent vs. ascent vs. assent. Two of these words, ascent and assent, have identical pronunciations and are only one letter apart, and if you are unfamiliar with seeing accent written on paper, you might think it is also pronounced the same.
What Are the Differences Between Accent, Ascent, and Assent?
In today’s post, I want to discuss the differences between these three words, their definitions, pronunciations, and functions in a sentence. After reading this post, you won’t ever get any of these words confused again.
When to Use Accent?
Accent is most commonly used as a noun and is defined as “a distinct mode of pronunciation of a language.” For example,
- He spoke with a thick German accent.
- Despite taking years of classes, she could never master the French accent.
Accent is pronounced “ăk,sĕnt,” which you may or may not get from just reading the word on paper, so it’s important to remember that “accent” is the one that sounds different than the rest.
Accent can also be used as a transitive verb and is defined as “to emphasize a particular feature.” For example,
- He accented the first syllable in “manual.”
- These two paintings accent the colors of the living room.
When to Use Ascent?
Ascent is noun meaning “the act or process of rising or going upward; an advancement, especially in social status.” For example,
- The ascent up the mountain was long and treacherous.
- Bob was an excellent employee, and his ascent up the company was quick.
Ascent is pronounced “ə-sĕnt,” with a soft “a.” The “a” in ascent sounds more like “uh.”
When to Use Assent?
Assent is a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means “an agreement or concurrence,” and as a verb it means “to express agreement or acceptance, as of a proposal.” For example,
- Before we proceed with construction, we need to reach assent on an action plan.
- After reading the plan, the president assented cheerfully.
Assent is pronounced exactly like “ascent,” but, as you can see, they have very different meanings.
Remember the Difference
If you have trouble keeping track of these words, one helpful thing to do is to think about their antonyms. An antonym is just a word that is the opposite of another. So if we think about “ascent,” which means to rise/go upward, the opposite word is descent, which is the action of going downward, dropping, or falling.
Similarly, if we think about “assent,” which means an agreement, the opposite word is dissent, which means to have or express a different opinion, i.e., to not agree with.
Accent has two “c’s” in it and since it refers to how words are pronounced, it deals with communication, which also has two “c’s” in it.
Accent is a way of speaking, such as an English of German accent.
Ascent is the process of rising or going upward, literally and figuratively, such as ascending up a company.
Assent is an agreement or concurrence.