Learn these 4 word stress rules to improve your pronunciation

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English Syllables và Stress Patterns

Syllables and găng tay are two of the main areas of spoken language. Pronouncing words with the căng thẳng on the correct syllables will help you improve sầu your spoken English, make your sentences easier to lớn underst& and help you sound more lượt thích a native speaker.

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English syllables are stress-timed. English is classed as a ‘stress-based’ language, which means the meanings of words can be altered significantly by a change in word stress và sentence áp lực. This is why it is important to learn how lớn use word ức chế in English & develop an understanding of sentence bức xúc & English stress patterns.


The English language is heavily stressed with each word divided inkhổng lồ syllables. Here are some examples of English words with different numbers of syllables. These sets of words are followed by a series of examples using the correct bao tay placement:

Words with one syllable 

The, cold, quite, bed, add, start, hope, clean, trade, green, chair, cat, sign, pea, wish, drive, plant, square, give, wait, law, off, hear, trough, eat, rough, trout, shine, watch, for, out, catch, flight, rain, speech, crab, lion, knot, fixed, slope, reach, trade, light, moon, wash, trend, balm, walk, sew, joke, tribe, brooch

Words with two syllables

Party, special, today, quiet, orange, partner, table, dem&, power, retrieve sầu, doctor, engine, diet, transcribe, contain, cabbage, mountain, humour, defover, spatial, special, greedy, exchange, manage, carpet, although, trophy, insist, tremble, balloon, healthy, shower, verbal, business, mortgage, fashion, hover, butcher, magic, broken

Words with three syllables

Fantastic, energy, expensive sầu, wonderful, laughable, badminton, idiot, celery, beautiful, aggression, computer, journadanh mục, horrify, gravity, temptation, dieting, trampoline, industry, financial, distinguished, however, tremendous, justify, inflation, creation, injustice, energise, glittering, tangible, mentalise, laughable, dialect, crustacean, origin


Words are made up of syllables – image source

Words with four syllables

Understanding, indecisive sầu, conversation, realistic, moisturising, American, psychology, gregarious, independence, affordable, memorandum, controversial, superior, gymnasium, entrepreneur, traditional, transformation, remembering, establishment, vegetation, affectionate, acupuncture, invertebrate

Words with five syllables

Organisation, uncontrollable, inspirational, misunderstanding, conversational, opinionated, biological, subordination, determination, sensationacác mục, refrigerator, haberdashery, hospitality, conservatory, procrastination, disobedience, electrifying, consideration, apologetic, particularly, compartmentalise, hypochondria

Words with six syllables

Responsibility, idiosyncratic, discriminatory, invisibility, capitalisation, extraterrestrial, reliability, autobiography, unimaginable, characteristically, superiority, antibacterial, disciplinarian, environmentamenu, materialism, biodiversity, criminalisation, imaginatively, disobediently

Words with seven syllables

Industrialisation, multiculturalism, interdisciplinary, radioactivity, unidentifiable, environmentalism, individuality, vegetarianism, unsatisfactorily, electrocardiogram

English Stress Patterns

When thinking about syllables và bức xúc in English, usually we find that one syllable of a word is stressed more than the others. There are always one or more stressed syllables within a word và this special ức chế placement helps words và sentences develop their own rhythm.

Syllables & căng thẳng patterns in English help to lớn create the sounds, pronunciations and rhythms that we hear all around us.

Word Stress in English

We come lớn recognise these English syllables & găng patterns in conversations in real life interactions & on the radio & television. Using the correct stressed syllables within a word is an important part of speech and understanding.

Pronouncing words with the right word găng tay will make your language sound more natural khổng lồ native speakers. Here are some words from the previous lists with the stressed syllable in bold:

Two syllable words áp lực patterns:

Quiet, party, special, todayorange, partner, table, demandpower, retrieveengine, diet, greedy, exchange, manage, carpet, although, relax, comfort

Three syllable words bít tất tay patterns:

Fantastic, energy, expensive sầu, aggresion, wonderful, laughable, badminton, celery, temptation, trampoline, industry, dintinguished, financial, however, tremendous, library

Four syllable words bức xúc patterns:

Understanding, indecisive, conversation, realistic, moisturising, American, psychology, independence, entrepreneur, transformation, fascinating, comfortable

Five sầu syllable words ức chế patterns:

Uncontrollable, inspirational, misunderstanding, conversational, opinionated, biological, alphabetical, subordination, refrigerator, haberdashery, hospitality

Six syllable words găng tay patterns:

Responsibility, idiosyncratic, invisibility, capitalisation, discriminatory or discriminatory, antibacterial, superiority, autobiography, materialism, biodiversity, criminalisation, imaginatively,

Seven syllable words bít tất tay patterns:

Industrialisation, multiculturalism, interdisciplinary, radioactivity, unidentifiable, environmentalism, individuality, vegetarianism, unsatisfactorily, electrocardiogram


Image source

Syllables & Stress Patterns in English Speech

Using clear syllables & ức chế patterns is an important part of speech. The correct word bao tay in English is crucial for understanding a word quickly & accurately.

Even if you cannot hear a word well & are not familiar with the context, you can often still work out what the word is, simply from listening khổng lồ which syllable is stressed.

In the same way, if a learner pronounces a word differently from the accepted norm, it can be hard for a native speaker lớn underst& the word. The word or sentence might be grammatically correct, but if they have sầu used the wrong (or an unexpected) căng thẳng pattern or the wrong stressed syllables, it could make it unintelligible lớn a native.

Learning a language is all about communication & being able to lớn make yourself understood. This is why syllables and áp lực patterns in spoken English are so important.

English Word Stress Rules

Here are some general rules about word găng in English:

Only vowel sounds are stressed (a,e,i,o,u).

For example: table (noun), special (adjective), demand (verb).

Words ending in ‘ic’, ‘tion’ or ‘sion’ always place their găng on the penultimate (second khổng lồ last) syllable. (e.g. supersonic, Atlantic, dedication, attention, transformation, comprehension).Words ending in ‘cy’, ‘ty’, ‘gy’ và ‘al’ always place their stress on the third from last syllable. (e.g. accountancy, sincerity, chronology, inspirational, hypothetical).Words ending in ‘sm’ with 3 or fewer syllables have their bao tay on the first syllable (e.g. prism, schism, autism, botulism, sarcasm) unless they are extensions of a stem word. This is often the case with words ending ‘ism’.Words ending in ‘ism’ tend to lớn follow the bít tất tay rule for the stem word with the ‘ism’ tagged onto lớn the end (e.g. cannibal = cannibalism, expression = expressionism, feminist = feminism, opportunist = opportunism).Words ending in ‘sm’ with 4 or more syllables tend to lớn have sầu their áp lực on the second syllable (e.g. enthusiasm, metabolism).


Words ending in ‘ous’

Words ending in ‘ous’ with 2 syllables have sầu their ức chế on the first syllable (e.g. monstrous, pious, anxious, pompous, zealous, conscious, famous, gracious, gorgeous, jealous, joyous).English words ending in ‘ous’ with 4 syllables usually have sầu their bức xúc on the second syllable (e.g. gregarious, anonymous, superfluous, androgynous, carnivorous, tempestuous, luxurious, hilarious, continuous, conspicuous). There are some exceptions using different stressed syllables, such as sacrilegious, which stresses the 3rd syllable.

Words ending in ‘ous’ with 3 or more syllables bởi not always follow a mix căng thẳng pattern. Here are some comtháng English words with 3 syllables ending in ‘ous’ & their áp lực placement:

Words ending in ‘ous’ with bức xúc on first syllable

fabulous, frivolous, glamorous, calculus, dubious, envious, scandalous, serious, tenuous, chivalrous, dangerous, furious

Words ending in ‘ous’ with bức xúc on second syllable

enormous, audacious, facetious, disastrous, ficticious, horrendous, contagious, ambitious, courageous


Image source

Stress can changing the meaning of a word

Rethành viên, where we place the bức xúc in English can change the meaning of a word. This can lead lớn some funny misunderstandings – and some frustrating conversations!

Words that have sầu the same spelling but a different pronunciation & meaning are called heteronyms. Here are a few examples of words where the stressed syllable changes the meaning of the word:


The word ‘object’ is an example of an English word that can change meaning depending on which syllable is stressed. When the word is pronounced ‘object’ (with a ức chế on the first syllable) the word is a noun meaning an ‘item’, ‘purpose’ or ‘person/thing that is the focus’ of a sentence.

For example:

She handed the lady a rectangular object made of metalHe was the object of the dog’s affectionThe ring was an object of high valueThe object of the interview was lớn find the best candidate for the jobThe object was small and shiny – it could have been a diamond ring!

But if the same word is pronounced ‘object‘ (with the áp lực on the second syllable) the word is now a verb, meaning ‘to lớn disagree with’ something or someone.

For example:

They object khổng lồ his constant latenessThe man objected lớn the kích thước of his neighbour’s new conservatoryShe strongly objects khổng lồ being called a liarWe object khổng lồ the buildings being demolishedNo one objected to the proposal for more traffic lights

When the word ‘present’ is pronounced ‘present’ (with the áp lực on the first syllable) the word is a noun meaning ‘a gift’ or an adjective meaning ‘here / not absent’.

For example:

She handed him a beautifully wrapped presentThe book was a present from their grandparentsEveryone was present at the meeting

But when the word is pronounced ‘present’ (with the căng thẳng on the second syllable) the word is now a verb meaning ‘lớn introduce’ something or someone, ‘to show’ or ‘khổng lồ bring lớn one’s attention’. It can also be used when talking about presenting a TV or radio show (i.e. to lớn be a ‘presenter’).

For example:

May I present Charlotte Smith, our new store managerBruce Forsyth used lớn present ‘Strictly Come Dancing’I’d lượt thích to lớn present my research on the breeding habits of frogsThey presented the glittering trophy to lớn the winnerShe was presented with the OscarThis new situation presents a problem

Another example of an English word changing meaning depending on where you place the ức chế is the word ‘project’. This can be the noun when the stressed syllable is at the start – ‘project’ (a task).

For example:

They started work on the retìm kiếm project immediatelyShe looked forward to lớn her next project – repainting the houseHe enjoyed writing restaurant đánh giá – it was his current passion project

However, this word becomes a verb when the stressed syllables moves to lớn the over – ‘to project‘ (khổng lồ throw/launch, to lớn protrude, khổng lồ cause an image to lớn appear on a surface, or to lớn come across/make an impression).

For example:

The object was projected inkhổng lồ the air at high velocityThe film will be projected onto the screenThe chimney projects 3 metres from the roofShe always projects herself with confidence

Stress patterns in compound words 

Compound words are single words made up of two distinct parts. They are sometimes hyphenated. Here are examples of stress patterns in compound words in English:

Compound nouns have sầu the bít tất tay on the first part: e.g. sugarcane, beetroot, henhouse, tripwire, lighthouse, newspaper, porthole, roundabout, willpowerCompound adjectives and verbs have the bít tất tay on the second part:e.g. wholehearted, green-fingered, old-fashioned, khổng lồ understand, to lớn inform, lớn short-change, to lớn overtake

English sentence stress 

Once you understand word stress in English, you need to lớn think about sentence stress. This means deciding which words to lớn stress as part of the sentence as a whole. Stressed syllables can create a distinctive, rhythmic pattern within a sentence. This is how English áp lực patterns are related to the rhythm of English & help create the ‘music’ of a language.

English speakers tkết thúc to lớn put stress on the most important words in a sentence in order to lớn draw the listener’s attention lớn them. The most important words are the words that are necessary for the meaning of the sentence. Sentence áp lực is just as important as word ức chế for clarity. For example:

‘The cat sat on the mat while eating its favourite food’

The most important words here are: ‘cat’, ‘mat’, ‘eating’ & ‘food’. Even if you only hear those words, you would still be able to understvà what is happening in the sentence simply from hearing which words are stressed.

Clearly, it is the nouns & verbs that are the most important parts of the sentence, as these are the ‘nội dung words’ that help with meaning. Content words are usually stressed.

The adjectives, adverbs and conjunctions all add flavour to lớn the sentence, but they are not absolutely necessary to understvà the meaning. These ‘helper’ words are usually unstressed.

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In our example sentence: ‘The cat sat on the mat while eating its favourite food’, we have already used the word ‘cat’ so we vì not need khổng lồ emphasise the word ‘its’ (or ‘he/she’ if you want to give sầu the cat a gender), because we already know who is eating the food (i.e. the cat).

English word stress within a sentence

Stress patterns affect words và sentences in English.

The ức chế on a word (the word stress) is the emphasis placed on that word. In the sentence below, “I never said he ate your chocolate”, the stressed word will change the meaning or implication of the sentence:


Stressing the first word ‘I’ implies that I (the speaker) never said it. It might be true or it might not be true – the point is, I never said it – someone else did.

Stressing the second word ‘never’ emphasises that I never said it. There was never an occasion when I said it (whether it is true or not).

Stressing the third word ‘said’ means that I never said it. He might have eaten your chocolate, but I didn’t say it. I might have thought it, but I never said it out loud (I may only have implied it).

Stressing the fourth word ‘he’ means I didn’t say it was him that ate your chocolate, only that someone did.

Stressing the fifth word ‘ate’ means I didn’t say he had eaten it. Perhaps he took it & threw it away or did something else with it.

Stressing the sixth word ‘your’ means it wasn’t your chocolate he ate – it could have sầu been someone else’s chocolate.

Stressing the seventh word ‘chocolate’ emphases that it was not your chocolate he ate – he ate something else belonging lớn you.

So the sentence ức chế in English makes all the difference khổng lồ the meaning of the whole sentence. The stressed word in the sentence is the one we should pay the most attention lớn.

Stress placement affects the whole understanding of the English language. This issue is strongly related to lớn the rhythm of English. Getting the right word stress, sentence stress & rhythm leads khổng lồ the perfect communication of your intended message.

Stressed Vowel Sounds and Weak Vowels in English

The necessary words in an English sentence are stressed more by increasing the length and clarity of the vowel sound.

In contrast, the unnecessary words are stressed less by using a shorter và less clear vowel sound. This is called a ‘weak’ vowel sound.

In fact, sometimes the vowel sound is almost inaudible. For example, the letter ‘a’ in English is often reduced to lớn a muffled ‘uh’ sound. Grammarians gọi this a ‘shwa’ or /ə/.

You can hear this ‘weak’ vowel sound at the start of the words ‘about’ và ‘attack’ and at the over of the word ‘banana’. They can sound like ‘ubout’, ‘uttack’ & ‘bananuh’ when spoken by a native sầu English speaker. The article ‘a’ as a single word is also unstressed and reduced in this way to a weak ‘uh’ sound.

For example: ‘Is there a shop nearby?’ sounds like ‘Is there-uh cửa hàng nearby?’ This shwa can also be heard in other instances, such as in the word ‘and’ when it is used in a sentence. For example: ‘This book is for me & you’ can sound sound lượt thích ‘This book is for me un(d) you’.

The reason for this weak bít tất tay pattern in English is to help the rhythm và tốc độ of speech. Using this weak ‘uh’ sound for the vowel ‘a’ helps the speaker get ready for the next stressed syllable by keeping the mouth và lips in a neutral position.

To pronounce the ‘a’ more clearly would require a greater opening of the mouth, which would slow the speaker down.


The giraffe on the right holds its mouth và lips in a neutral position, ready khổng lồ speak again – image source

As English is a stress-timed language, the regular stresses are vital for the rhythm of the language, so the vowel sounds of unstressed words in English often get ‘lost’.

In contrast, syllable-timed languages (such as Spanish) tover khổng lồ work in the opposite way, stressing the vowel sounds strongly, while the consonants get ‘lost’.

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Click on the highlighted text to lớn learn more about how English word bít tất tay và sentence găng tay relates to lớn the rhythm of English và intonation in English.

What do you think about syllables & áp lực in English?

Do you find the syllables and stress patterns a difficult part of learning a new language?

Have sầu you had any funny misunderstandings from stressing the wrong syllable in English? We’d love sầu to hear your stories!

Are there any English words or sentences with odd stressed syllables or difficult áp lực patterns that you would lượt thích advice on?

Can you think of good way to rethành viên or practise correct English word găng & sentence stress?

Do you have any ideas khổng lồ help EFL students improve their understanding of syllables & stress?