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Combat may be a noun, countable or non-countable, or a verb.

  • In British English, the convention is to pronounce both of these with the stress on the first syllable: 'COMM-bat', IPA: /ˈkɒm bæt/.
    • You may hear older speakers realizing the first syllable very like 'come', IPA: /kʌm/
  • In American English, the verb is stressed on the second syllable: 'comm-BAT', /kɑm ˈbæt/.
    • Changing the stress like this affects the spelling of the different forms of the verb (see Consonant doubling for an explanation). The present participle is written by orthodox Britons as combating and the past form as combated; to Americans, these are combatting and combatted. The agent noun is always combatant.
See also combatative - combative.
This pattern of shifting stress in words that look identical but belong to two separate word classes is quite common in English.
Quirk (1985) (Appendix I.56 B) describes the most common: "When verbs of two syllables are converted into nouns, the stress is sometimes shifted from the second to the first syllable. The first syllable, typically a Latin prefix, often has a reduced vowel /ə/ in the verb but a full vowel in the noun: He was con-VICT-ed (IPA: /kən ˈvɪkt ɪd/) of theft, and so became a CON vict (IPA: /ˈkɒn vɪkt/)" [AWE's rendition of IPA].
There follows a list of some 57 "words having end-stress as verbs but initial stress as nouns in Br[itish] E[nglish]." Note that "in Am[erican] E[nglish], many have initial stress as verbs also". Quirk's list is the foundation of AWE's category:shift of stress. Additions have been made from, amongst others, Fowler, 1926-1996.