There’s ONE thing you need to get right to sound more natural when you speak English. When you do this, native speakers will understand you better too! This really important thing is called stress.
“Stress” means where you put emphasis when you speak. There are two different types of stress: sentence stress and word stress.
We don’t stress every word and every syllable when we speak. We only stress certain sounds and words. This gives spoken English a natural rhythm. For example, in the sentence below, the stressed sounds are in BOLD.
My NAME is CLARE, and I’m an ENGlish TEACHer.
The stressed sounds are on the words “name”, “Clare”, “Eng” and “teach”.
We call these sounds “stressed” sounds. All the other words and syllables are unstressed. So “my”, “is”, “and”, “I’m”, “an”,”lish” and “er” are unstressed, and they fit between the stressed sounds.
You might also hear that these unstressed sounds are often the “uh” sound.
You can change the sentence stress to give a different meaning. For example, in the sentence “I love you”, you can stress different words to emphasise different things.
I LOVE you (I feel love, not hate)
I love you (maybe everyone else hates you, but I love you)
I love YOU (only you and nobody else)
Word stress is how we stress the syllables in words. So for words with more than one syllable, one syllable is stressed, while the other syllables aren’t stressed. So, for example we say:
a FLOWer (not flowER)
or teleVISion (not teLEvision or televisION)
Word stress is really important in English pronunciation. If you get the word stress wrong, native speakers might not understand you.
Word stress is always the same. We can’t change the stress of a word like we can change sentence stress.
So, how do you know which part of a word to stress?
If you hear a word enough times, you’ll hear which part is stressed. To learn the word stress of a word, make sure you hear it!
But there are also some rules to help you:
1.Words ending -ee, -ese, and -oon
The stress is on the final syllable. So we say agree, Chinese, cartoon and afternoon.
2. Nouns and adjective
We normally have the stress on the first syllable of nouns and adjectives. So we say easy, clever, husband and lovely.
We normally have the stress on the final syllable of verbs. So we say believe, remain and admire.
4. Words ending -tion, -sion or -ic
We have the stress on the penultimate (second to last) syllable. So we say
sensation, information, television and dramatic.
If you’d like more about the most important pronunciation rule, check out the video below:
My English fluency course “Speak Real English” is launching soon!
Stay tuned for the details…
Did you miss the two other posts in the series “Speak Real English”?
2 Secrets for a Native English Vocabulary