How to stress words properly and sound like a native English speaker

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Susanne English
August 17, 2016
1888
a minute
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


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.

PRACTICE

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.

Book one of my sessions for us to practice aspects of sentence stress while listening and speaking. It can be a lot of fun. You’re welcome to use my coupon for a 10% discount: pronunciation10.

$50.00
USD/h
Flag
English
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Australia
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23
Spanish
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English
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Japanese
Hi there! I look forward to meeting you, finding out about your needs and English language goals and helping you to improve your skills. You can choose from speaking, listening, reading and writing. My normal one hour sessions include the services of 1: Lesson plans posted prior to lessons 2: Lesson Summary/Evaluation – posted after the lesson. I am a qualified English language teacher and have over 20 years of experience teaching English to people from all around the world. Also I have been an IELTS examiner and I understand the requirements of other English testing systems such as APTIS. I live on the Gold Coast, Australia and I like travel, the surf and sun, swimming, walking along the beach and hiking in the mountains. My students generally say that I am friendly and they can learn a lot by studying with me.
Flag
English
globe
Australia
time
23
Spanish
,
English
,
Japanese
Hi there! I look forward to meeting you, finding out about your needs and English language goals and helping you to improve your skills. You can choose from speaking, listening, reading and writing. My normal one hour sessions include the services of 1: Lesson plans posted prior to lessons 2: Lesson Summary/Evaluation – posted after the lesson. I am a qualified English language teacher and have over 20 years of experience teaching English to people from all around the world. Also I have been an IELTS examiner and I understand the requirements of other English testing systems such as APTIS. I live on the Gold Coast, Australia and I like travel, the surf and sun, swimming, walking along the beach and hiking in the mountains. My students generally say that I am friendly and they can learn a lot by studying with me.

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