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Emphasis in English | English Pronunciation Lesson

Listen to the audio…

…or watch the video!:

In English, the general rule is that we stress content words, those words that carry meaning in a sentence (such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, negatives, etc.)

We then give the most emphasis to the focus word in a sentence or phrase. This is the word that the speaker determines is the most important to the meaning of the sentence.

Although the focus word is often:

  • the last content word in a group; or
  • new information,

native English speakers will use their voice to emphasize any word in a sentence to express a message. So, English speakers express messages and emotions just with the music of their voice, and without even saying any words!

Let’s practice how native English speakers emphasize different words in a sentence to change the underlying meaning and emotion.

Listen and Repeat

Can you hear what message I’m sending to the listener with my voice? Write your answers and questions in the comments.

  • SO you think you can dance.”

    (Notice that “can” is said as [kɪn]).

  • “So YOU think you can dance.”

    (Round your lips for the [uw] vowel sound)

  • “So you THINK you can dance.”

    (The lips are somewhat relaxed for the [ɪ] vowel sound)

  • “So you think YOU can dance.”

  • “So you think you CAN dance.”

  • “So you think you can DANCE.

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