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Word Stress Tips for English Speakers

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To communicate clearly when you are speaking in English, it’s important to stress the correct syllables in each word. This is called word stress, which means pronouncing one syllable of a multi- syllabic word with greater emphasis (stress) than the other syllables in the word.
There are two very simple rules about word stress:
  1. One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. If you hear two stresses, you hear two words. Two stresses cannot be one word. It is true that there can be a "secondary" stress in some words. But a secondary stress is much smaller than the main [primary] stress, and is only used in long words.)
  2. We can only stress vowels, not consonants.
Here are some more easy tips to keep in mind about word stress as you practice pronunciation, but do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is better to try to "feel" the music of the language and to add the stress naturally. :
  1. Stress the first syllable of:
  • Most two-syllable nouns (examples: CLImate, KNOWledge)
  • Most two-syllable adjectives (examples: FLIPpant, SPAcious)
  1. Stress the last syllable of:
  • Most two-syllable verbs (examples: reQUIRE, deCIDE)
  1. Stress the second-to-last syllable of:
  • Words that end in -ic (examples: ecSTATic, geoGRAPHic)
  • Words ending in -sion and -tion (examples: exTENsion, retriBUtion)
  1. Stress the third-from-last syllable of:
  • Words that end in -cy, -ty, -phy and -gy (examples: deMOCracy, unCERtainty, geOGraphy, radiOLogy)
  • Words that end in -al (examples: exCEPtional, CRItical)
Keep these simple rules in mind and you will soon find your pronunciation getting better and better! Sign up for a trial lesson if you want more advice or tips or to try making these sounds in conversation.
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