Word Stress Rules

Word Stress Rules

So I’m making this video for Mariano Garcia
who subscribes to this YouTube channel and follows my weekly videos at www.englishpronunciationroadmap.com.
And he posted a comment on one of my videos a couple of weeks ago on intonation and said
you know ‘great video but which word in a sentence do I stress?’. He understands that content words versus structural
words like grammatical words are more important and to stress so: verbs and nouns and adjectives.
But in a typical sentence is there anything I can do to help me know which word i should
be putting most of the emphasis on. And you know i’m sure some of you that are
watching this video now it sort of asking yourself the same question. There are all
of these rules about how to stress a syllable and how to stress a word which are quite useful,
but when I got a sentence or a question or a comment or statement or exclamation which
word in that sentence or that phrase should I stress. And there are scores and scores of ideas about
this and how you should do it in English and in British English. I guess a really simple
and straightforward way of thinking about it would be to ask which word in your phrase
or in your sentence carries the most important bit of information. And of course that can change depending on
the circumstances in which are talking, depending on the person you’re talking to, depending
on the content of your conversation. And so it’s a very flexible thing and I guess requires
you to be really specific about what you want the listener to take away: what’s the most
important piece of information. And so if you have a look at this question:
“did you know that she crashed the car?” just listen to the way in which the meaning
of this sentence changes when I stress a different word in the question. So have a listen to
this: “DID you know that she crashed the car?”
questions whether the other person knew about the event at all. “did YOU know that she crashed the car?”
questions in a sort of accusatory way as to whether the other person knew. “did you KNOW that she crashed the car?”
questions whether the other person knew for certain. “did you know that SHE crashed the car?”
questions whether the other person is sure of who is responsible. “did you know that she CRASHED the cars?”
questions whether the other person knew the state of the car. “did you know that she crashed THE car?”
questions whether the listener knows that it’s the best one. “did you know that she crashed the CAR?”
questions whether the other person knew that it was the car that she crashed as opposed
to something else. Another way to think about word stress in
sentences is to think about tone units. Take a look at this sentence. You can see how the sentence is broken up
into units with forward slashes. It’s broken up into these little tone units or what I
tend to refer to as phrases. And the main stressed word in each of those tone units
or those phrases is often called the tonic syllable. And the word stress rule is that
in a typical sentence it tends to be that the tonic syllable/the main stressed word
in that unit tends to be the last content word in that sentence. And it certainly holds true in this little
example, so have a listen to this: ‘I was WONDERING / whether you might be
INTERESTED / in coming to a PLAY that I’m going to. / It’s at the ROYALl / this coming
FRIDAY. / It’s about a GUY / who loses EVERYTHING / and DISCOVERS himself. / It’s got really
great REVIEWS / and I THOUGHT / that we could go to that Italian PIZZA place / close to
the TUBE station. / Their DOUGH-balls / are AMAZING!’ So you can hear how it’s the last content
word in those phrases that tends to get the main stress or we would say that that’s the
main stressed word in that tone unit or in that phrase. And that might be another way
of thinking about which word should I stress in my sentences. And just two extra things to think about that
might be useful is to know that new information in a conversation is always worth stressing
so for instance: “have you read the new Dot Hutchison book? No, but have you read
the new Matthew Norman book?”. So then you piece of information and in that
example it was the new author that gets the stress in the sentence because it’s the new
piece of information. And the same thing goes for contrasting information
in an exchange. So for instance: “I haven’t SEEN the new car but I’ve HEARD about it”,
“do you prefer ROSES or LILLIES?” So one way of thinking about word stress in
sentences is to think about which word carries the most importance, the most important information
in what it is that you’re saying, and that gets the most stress; and the second way is
to think about these tone units and to think about the tonic syllable which tends to be
the last content word in each phrase that you’re using within the whole sentence; the
third way is to think about new information, what new information comes up in your exchange
in conversation; and the last thing is to think about contrasting information and how
that helps both of you to understand how the conversation moves forward and how you interact
with one another. So Mariano I hope you found that useful and
everyone else I hope you found that useful. If you’re watching this on youtube and you’re
a subscriber great. Go down, leave a thumbs up or thumbs down, make a comment. Who knows
I might make a video in response to one of your replies but if you’re not a subscriber,
subscribe now. I post weekly videos here so hit subscribe and I can speak to you next
week. You may want to go over to my website www.englishpronunciationroadmap.com
there is a lot of free videos, a load of free downloads and there’s some courses that
you can download, an e-book that I wrote last year that has been helping many, many of the
people that I work with and I’ll speak to you soon.

94 Replies to “Word Stress Rules”

  1. Thank you so much. This is very useful 🙂 I never expected you to answer my queston with a video. I will share this with my classmates. Thanks again.

  2. I found your videos today and I think they're fantastic. Now you have a new follower. Now I have a question about the pronunciation of "the". When you emphasize "the", must the pronunciation of that word be like /ði:/?, no matter if the next word starts with a consonant? So is it correct to pronounce "the car" as /ði: kɑ:/ if I want to emphasize the word "the"?

  3. This the first, me, commenting on a tutorial video. I'd been reading articles, books, and I understood pretty much nothing. However, what I've understood off this video is incredible. This comment might mean nothing to you, but your way of explaining is awesome. Thanks a lot. I'd like to ask one question. As for tone units, you said that the last word of a content gets stressed. So, basically, if I speak fast, for example, 50 words at a time, only the 50th word will be stressed, right?

  4. Very interesting, thank you. We didn't study stress to that depth, we only were taught about where to stress sentences in general when studying a foreigh language, but it's the first time that I hear, for example, the "Tone units". Language and subjects must be getting updated with modern times. Or I must be out of date 😀 Thank you. New subscriber.

  5. Great video. When talking about tone units you also describe them as "phrases" – are tone units the same thing as grammatical phrases? Many thanks!

  6. Hi there! I'm from Argentina and I found all your videos so useful! Sometimes it gets tough to study these kind of things. I mean, we speak quite different so somehow when I study from phonetic's books I do not understand some concepts. Thank you!

  7. The thing that annoys me most in life is when people stress the wrong word or number in a sentence.

    Like not seven twenty seven, seven TWENTY eight.


  8. Do you remember Professor Higgins taught Eliza to say " How KIND of you to let me come" (big stress on "kind")? It's sounds so very posh and it seems to be the secret of Received English (after getting the easy business of pronouncing vowels and consonants RP) and I wish you could teach much more of these stresses and rhythms because they make all the difference.

  9. Sorry , proffesor, But I didn't get the meaning : Did you know that she crashed THE car?
    ( maybe "this" or "that" or "a" Like , What sort of car?)
    What does "the best" have to doin the case when asker emphasise "THE"?

  10. thanks for making this vedio. it is quite useful. could you explain more on how to pick out the different tone units for a sentence.thanks man!

  11. Hi there! I was wondering if you knew or could tell me how to put/use secondary stress. I have a suprasegmental phonetics' test tomorrow and I'd like to be clear about that. And I loved your videos, they were very useful 🙂

  12. Wow. 20 years in the UK and I never thought of stressing certain words. Will definitely practice this. Thank you

  13. I highly thank you for your explication but, let me suggest a useful conclusion. First, the stress is only used by the speaker to emphasise on something i.e. there are not exact rules. In another hand, some have set down very generative effective rules. Those are depending on of the quality of the sound speech i.e. we have voiced and devoiced sounds according to our phonetics and phonology study. If we learn the features of whether the voiced or devoiced sounds it comes clear how to identify the stress rules. I strongly advise checking Peter roach book of phonetics and phonology in which you find all the explanation I want to write clearly. 😉

  14. Sir l would like to put a question regarding the usage of stress in English. Which syllables are stressed if a word has three or four syllables ? lm eagerly waiting for your reply. thanking u

  15. you need to be living in England with English people not foreigners in order to be able to pick what the teacher is trying to explain otherwise you will never get it .

  16. In the question, "Have you read the new Dot Hutchison book?"
    you stress the noun, "Dot Hutchison" in a falling intonation (because it's a noun & a new information). And stress also "book" in a rising intonation( because it's a yes/no question)? Right?
    My next question is, should I stress the verb "read" in a falling intonation? (because the rule, in the presence of pronoun, you stress the verb)

  17. Teacher, why did you stress "everything" in It's about a guy who loses everything? Isn't "everything" a pronoun(indefinite pronoun)? There's a rule that we don't stress structure words.

  18. Thank you very much. The thing is that I've been learning english since my childhood through imitation. Somehow I manage to read texts properly but I was struggling on how to teach it. Now I know the "content" word

  19. so we have a paper on the same concept and I was facing a tough time understanding it but then I stumbled upon this video and found it quite helpful. Your explanations were pretty clear and too complicated. So I'm really grateful for the same. 🙂

  20. Hi there! Thank you for all your videos, they are SO helpful and I really enjoy them.
    I wish my teacher could explain as you do.
    Greetings from Argentina.

  21. Ohoo..osm xplntn..tnkw nd want u 2keep on uploading more fa us..espcly fa me haha 😜😝haha ohya! it's vry useful…as am student of literature..

  22. I am from Algeria. I do not understand or speak of the British dialect, but I want to learn it because I love to speak to it so I will join your channel

  23. I just keep on watching each video one after the other. Thank you for taking your time to give answers to our sometimes unasked questions. I'm an ESL speaker. I hope to speak as good as you do someday.

  24. So far the most informative video I have found on the clear intonation explanation! Thanks a lot!

  25. Your sentence that contains the words “scores and scores”…that is upspeak, is it not? I am confused as to what upspeak is, even after watching your video on it because I found the entire video to contain upspeak on your part. Which is not criticism; clearly I am not understanding! I always thought upspeak was ending a declaration with a questioning tone. I didn’t think it was just a rising intonation, like your declarative sentence here that ends with “which word I should stress in my sentences.” Doesn’t that have a rising ending, and is that not upspeak? I am confused…also you say “I’ll speak to you soon” with a rising intonation…right?

  26. your channel is so beneficial especially the phonetical part because I study phonetics in the college. but I think that video explains the prominence whose stress is up to the speaker, but stress has generally certain rules like thematic words and I hoped that your video explains this point. thank you anyway; you are skilful

  27. Can you raise the volume of your voice?
    Sorry, I can't hear it, but I'm sure the material you delivered is very useful and appropriate what I need.

  28. The sound volume is so low. I turnd my phone voulme up to the maximum but it was so hard hearing your teaching.

  29. Sir please reply my query. I love your teaching .i want to give stess on the word teaching. Is this word speaks in rising or falling intonation?

  30. You pronounced 'youtube' as'youchube' ('youchewbe?') but then talking of the tube station you pronounced it as 'tube'.
    Just curious, why many tutors here on the Youtube call it 'youchube'?

  31. this lecture is what i've found for a long time. thank you for sharing your knowledge. i've never commented before, this is my first comment. that means, it's very useful and i'll try to keep studying with your channel and maybe in your website.

    thanks you so much!

  32. Now you might find this interesting:

    Travel on the tube or on a bus in London and you will usually hear the 2nd word stressed in a compound name:

    Piccadilly 'Circus
    Oxford 'Circus
    Portobello 'Road
    Parliament 'Square

    Many people also pronounce place names like that when they speak.

    This contrasts your (logical- in my view) advice on stressing the contrast (amongst all those squares, roads, circuses).

    I actually disagree much more with such pronounciation than I’m curious about it because I’ve never heard anyone from the American continent stress names like that and stressing the contrast makes much more sense as it improves clarity.

  33. Thank you, I just realized that this thing is probably the problem while I'm speaking… Because I feel that I have said a word correctly, but still doesn't sound good tho. I have to learn this hhh

  34. The video is extremely valuable. Your accent is pure and clear; it makes easy to understand the details. By the way the tone of your voice is superb 🙂

  35. Thanks for this video it really helped me a lot but my question is that Is there about thirty word stress rules in English or more than because my lecturer told me so

  36. Thanks my dear for sharing this informative and important video. In fact most teachers including myself do not thouroughly tackle this aspect of ENGLISH

  37. I never really thought much about how we talk using our pitch. It's really interesting! I usually have an easy time talking to people and groups, I bet these things tie into that 😀 you got a sub 🙂

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