Home / English Lessons / [ə]: The De-Stressed Schwa Vowel Sound | Part 1 | English Pronunciation Lesson

[ə]: The De-Stressed Schwa Vowel Sound | Part 1 | English Pronunciation Lesson

This lesson is part of a series on the De-stressed Schwa sound:

Part 1: [ə]: The De-Stressed Schwa Vowel Sound

Part 2: [ə]: Transforming Words to Schwas

Listen to the audio while reading the text:


…or watch the video!

Speaking English with the correct music doesn’t just require stressing syllables and words. An important part of rhythm in English is de-stressing certain syllables and words. De-stressing means that some sounds are said:

  • quicker; and
  • more relaxed

than other sounds. The most de-stressed sound in English is a quick [ə]. This sound is called a “schwa”, and it’s kind of the ugliest sound in English.

  • [ə]

But it’s an important part of the shortening and lengthening that creates the music of English.


We would never say the following word giving equal stress to each syllable:

  • “photography” [fow taw graw fiy]

but we stress the 2nd syllable, and de-stress the 1st and 3rd syllables all the way to a quick schwa sound [ə]. 

  • “photography” [fə TAW grə fiy] (Note: the 4th syllable is a medium, secondary stress)
  • “photography” [fə TAW grə fiy]

Do you hear how different that sounds when we de-stress those two syllables into schwas? Practice the de-stressed schwa sound [ə] in English with the following words. Remember that the schwa is said quickly and very relaxed. [ə]

Listen and Repeat

  • “economy” [ə KAWN nə miy]
  • “politics” [PAL lə tɪks]
  • “investigate” [ɪn VɛST tə geyt]
  • “discovery” [də SKʌV vɚr riy]
  • “paragraph” [PÆR rə græf]
  • “apparent” [ə PÆR rɪnt]

Remember, shortening certain syllables in English is just as important as lengthening and stressing when it comes to speaking with the correct rhythm of English.

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One comment

  1. Alejandro García


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