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Confine belongs to two separate word classes, and the pronunciation of the two is different.

  • In the verb ('to confine'), the stress falls on the second syllabel, 'kern-FINE', IPA: /kən ˈfaɪn/. It means 'to enclose [a person, etc] within limits', usually 'to imprison'.
  • The noun is nearly always found in the plural, confines. The stress is on the first syllable: 'CON-fine', IPA: /ˈkɒn faɪn[z]/. It means 'the boundaries', and is used in such phrases as "He was held within the confines of the Tower of London".
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.