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Stressing the Right Word in a Sentence

Stressing the Right Word in a Sentence

Date: Jan 27 2009

Topic: Pronunciation

Author: nad1a


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In a previous lesson, we saw how intonation can change the underlying meaning of a whole sentence. Over here, we will see which words are important to be pronounced well and clearly and which can be “swallowed”.

Languages, like French and Italian, are considered syllabic languages and each syllable is pronounced clearly, and takes up roughly the same amount of time. English is a stress-timed language and syllables may last different amounts of time. Only main words are stressed and given importance in pronunciation and small non-essential words are reduced and glided over.

Consider these two sentences:

The banks say their programs offer convenience.
I'm just calling to let you know that I'll be a little late to the game tomorrow night.

Both sentences need the same time to be pronounced, despite the second one containing more syllables. This is because they have the same amount of stressed words.

We usually stress content words, carrying the essential meaning, like nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs. When we pronounce these words we raise our voice there or may prolong the sound. The small connecting words, usually called grammatical or structure words, like auxiliary and modal verbs, pronouns, articles, and prepositions are not stressed but rather sound like one long unstressed word.

You can check this for yourself while you watch a movie in English, some TV show or the news or speak to a native speaker. Notice the way they stress the key words only and the rest of small words are scrunched down. You may also want to try this with any of the Englishbaby lessons, on here. This will improve not only your listening comprehension but also your pronunciation, when you start stressing words correctly, yourself.

Further reading:
More help on Pronunciation


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United Kingdom

thankyou www.about.esl.com

06:28 PM Feb 18 2009 |



hi nadla iam preety impressed by ur lessons thax a lot u r doin great job i hope u keep this consistency for a  very long time. u have done us enough. thax

10:11 AM Feb 18 2009 |



Amazing style of teaching

11:17 AM Feb 17 2009 |



Saudi Arabia

very good ..:)

02:37 PM Feb 16 2009 |


Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

thank you so so so so so much

06:28 PM Feb 15 2009 |



soo interesting ! thx u very much ;)

11:43 AM Feb 15 2009 |

*butterfly wings*

Saudi Arabia

it is a useful lesson .. thank you Smile

07:38 PM Feb 13 2009 |

*butterfly wings*

Saudi Arabia

it is a useful lesson .. thank you Smile

07:37 PM Feb 13 2009 |

*butterfly wings*

Saudi Arabia

it is a very useful lesson .thank you

07:20 PM Feb 13 2009 |




12:19 PM Feb 10 2009 |



Sri Lanka

Yeah, I agree that we learn something new from each of your lessons. Excellent work.

10:47 AM Feb 05 2009 |



Thank you Nadia. I learn a new thing with each lesson you put up.

10:30 AM Feb 05 2009 |




thnak you nad, your lessons are really useful .

06:15 AM Feb 03 2009 |



well comprehensive. thank you.

08:02 PM Jan 31 2009 |



Excellent explanation, my dear friend. Very useful. Thanks a lot!

02:59 PM Jan 28 2009 |

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