Pronunciation is affected by many factors and variations, and one of those factors is stress, or emphasis.
We stress words by speaking a little louder and pausing slightly before and after the word or syllable. There are two types of stress we use when we speak: sentence stress and word stress.
When referring to sentence stress, we mean the stress or emphasis that we place on certain words within a sentence.
When we speak about word stress, we mean the emphasis we place on one or more syllables while leaving other syllables unstressed.
This post will deal primarily with sentence stress.
Sentence stress emphasises information words, such as verbs, nouns and adjectives. The articles, prepositions and sometimes pronouns are unstressed; for example: ‘He likes fish and chips wrapped in paper for his dinner’. The information words in this sentence are likes, fish, chips, wrapped, paper, dinner. The articles and prepositions are and, in, for.
As speakers, we change our sentence stress to change our meaning. So, try reading out loud the following sentences, emphasising the words in bold and checking the matching meaning:
He likes fish and chips, wrapped in paper for his dinner. (He and not someone else...)
He likes fish and chips wrapped in paper for his dinner. (He likes and doesn't dislike…)
He likes fish and chips wrapped in paper for his dinner. (Fish and chips and not something else…)
He likes fish and chips wrapped in paper for his dinner. (It’s important that they are wrapped in paper.)
He likes fish and chips wrapped in paper for his dinner. (Not for breakfast, not for lunch, but for his dinner.)
Hear the difference?
Would you like to practise your sentence stress and communicate meaning more effectively?
Correct sentence stress helps the listener to understand your message and you will sound more like a native English speaker.
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