What is Word Stress?
In English, We do not state each syllable with the same intensity or consistency. In a single word, we focus more on ONE syllable. We state one syllable noisily (enormous, solid, significant) and the various syllables unobtrusively.
How about we take 3 words: photo, picture taker and photographic. Do they sound similar when spoken? No. Since we emphasize (stress) ONE syllable in each word. Furthermore, it isn’t generally a similar syllable. So the “shape” of each word is extraordinary.
This post is going to focus on how to speak clearly in English using words stress correctly. This is one of the most important parts of English pronunciation. Many of my students worry about speaking English clearly and they’re afraid that their accent makes it hard for other people to understand them. But most of the time the problem isn’t an accent. It’s word stress.
Importance Of Word Stress
Word stress is essential for sounding natural in English. It’s part of our natural rhythm. When we speak in this lesson today, you’re going to learn exactly what words stress is, how you can use it, and at the end, I’m going to share with you how to pronounce some of the most challenging words in English and be sure that you’re doing it correctly.
So let’s start with what exactly is word stress and why is it so important?
Word Stress Definition
Native speakers’ ears are trained to listen for very specific sounds, and if a sound in a word isn’t correct, if it’s not stressed in the right way, it means that either they don’t understand the word correctly or they don’t understand it at all. Now to understand words stress, there’s one thing you must know.
You have to know what a syllable is. All of our words have much smaller parts and these are called syllables. A word might have only one syllable like a dog, cat, walk, drive, desk. Even words like strengths or stretched have only one syllable. They’re longer words, but there are just one syllable.
Syllables are all about the different sounds of a word, not the length of a word. And here is a great trick for knowing each syllable in a word, syllables are usually made up of one vowel sound and our chin drops every time you use a syllable.
I want you to do something with me. I want you to put your hand under your chin and I want you to say the word dog. Dog. Do you notice that your chin moves down one time when you say the word dog? That’s because there’s only one syllable. Let’s try another one. Again, I want you to put your hand under your chin and this time I want you to say the word identification.
If we slow this word way down, I want you to count how many syllables are i-den-ti-fi-ca-tion. What do you feel? How many times did you feel your chin moved down? The number should be six and that is a syllable every time your chin moves with one of those vowel sounds, it is a part of a word, a syllable. Now that you know what syllables are all about, let’s go back and talk about why these are so important for word stress.
In English, we do not stress every syllable in a word. Instead, we stress one syllable. Let me show you the difference. Identification. I-den-ti-fi-ca-tion. Do you notice that stress? My voice goes up. It’s louder and it’s clear when I say -ca. If I stressed every syllable equally, it would sound like this:i-den-ti-fi-cation. For example, I need your identification.
That doesn’t sound natural at all because it isn’t natural. We do not stress every syllable in a word. Let’s try another example. I’m going to listen to a record today in that sentence, I’m using the record as a noun, but this word could also be a verb and in that case, I need to change which syllable I stress. For example, I’m going to record some music today. Record the syllable.
Stress has changed and as a result, native speakers immediately recognize it as a verb. Several words in English can be both nouns and verbs, but we have to be careful about how we say them. We have to change which syllable we stress, and I’m going to share the most important ones with you in a moment. Now that you know what word stress is and why it’s important, it’s time to figure out which syllable should you stress in a word. And there are a few ways that you can do that and here’s where I’m going to give you a really helpful trick for those long scary words in English.
The tricks for Stressing long scary Words
The first thing that you can do is listen to native speakers carefully and see if you can hear which syllable is stressed in a word. The next thing that you can do is you could use a dictionary to help you as well. In a dictionary, you’ll always find the phonetic spelling of a word and there is an apostrophe before the stressed syllable.
So if we look at the word refrigerator, we can see that there’s an apostrophe just before fridge refrigerator. Now the truth is, you don’t always have time to look in a dictionary and sometimes even if you’relistening carefully, it’s hard to identify which syllable a native speaker stresses. So I’ve got three tricks to help you.
For most nouns and adjectives that, have two syllables, you will stress the first syllable. Let’s look at some examples. Climate, parent, knowledge, flippant, spacious, basic, object. If you noticed in each of those examples, I said the first syllable louder, longer, higher and clear, and a great way for you to practice is simply listening to me say those and immediately repeat what you hear. After you do that. Let’s move on.
We just talked about nouns and adjectives with two syllables, but now let’s talk about verbs with two syllables. Most of the time with verbs that have two syllables, you’re going to stress the second syllable. Let’s look at some examples. Become, embrace, reflect, forgive, adore, object. Did you notice that last one? An object is a noun, to object is a verb and we’ve switched which syllable gets stressed. An object, to object.
This is exactly like that example of record and a record that we talked about earlier, so let’s look at a few more examples of words that could be verbs or nouns and how we need to change the stress on an increase to increase, decrease to decrease, a refund to refund, an invite to invite, a project to project. Again, I want you to practice by listening to those and repeating what you hear. It’s a great way to develop that pattern and become more familiar, more comfortable with word stress.
The third and final rule today, which is how to identify which syllable to stress and long words like I’m going to say each of these words out loud and I want you to listen carefully to see if you notice any patterns with these words. Administration, exploitation,communication, interruption,accusation, intervention,abbreviation,extension incomprehension.
All right? What did you notice? Did you find a pattern of which syllable I said louder, longer, higher and clear? Do you notice that all of these words end with the sound -tion/-sion: incomprehension, administration, exploitation interruption? They all have the -tion/-sponsored and if you listen carefully, I’m stressing the syllable just before -tion/-soon.Listen carefully. Administration, interruption communication, exploitation in comprehension, stressing the right syllable, and those longer words will ensure that you’re communicating much more clearly and that you sound more natural in English.
Word Stress Test
Now I’m going to test you. I want you to choose the word from this list. Create a sentence, share your sentence with me in the comments below, but I want you to tell me which syllable in that word that you should stress. Now, if you found this post helpful to you, be sure to give it a thumbs up,
share it with friends, and be sure to subscribe to this blog so that you never miss a future confident English lesson.I’ve also got a playlist available for you with additional lessons on how to sound more natural and speak clearly in English. With that, thank you so much for joining me. Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next time for your Confident English lesson.