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Stress and Rhythm in English | A Quick Overview | English Pronunciation Lesson

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A Quick Overview of Stress and Rhythm in English

To create the music and rhythm of English, native English speakers stress (they say longer, louder and higher in pitch) the words in their sentences that carry meaning.

Stressed content words:

    1. Nouns (“dog”)
    2. Main Verbs (“walk”)
    3. Adjectives (“beautiful”)
    4. Adverbs (“quickly”)
    5. Interjections (“wow!”)
    6. Negatives (“not”)
    7. Wh-words (“what”)

English speakers also de-stress (meaning they say quicker, shorter, more relaxed) words that only function to hold the structure and grammar of the sentence together.

De-stressed function words:

    1. Articles (“the“, “a“)
    2. Auxiliary verbs (“has, “can)
    3. Pronouns (“he”, “her”)
    4. Prepositions (“of”, “to”)
    5. Conjunctions (“and”, “but”)

*This stressing + de-stressing creates the music and rhythm of English.*

So, in English, syllables and words are not said with equal length and strength, but they vary.

  • Some syllables and words are longer and louder.
  • Some are really short; and
  • Some right in the middle.

Example

  • “The dogs are on the bed.”

Stressed content words = “dogs” + “bed” (nouns)

Listen again

  • “The dogs are on the bed.”

De-stressed function words (said quickly) = “the” + “are” + “on” + “the” (article, auxiliary verb, preposition, article)

  • “The dogs are on the bed.”

 

This was just a quick overview of stress and rhythm in English. Feel free to check out the more detailed lesson and video on stress and rhythm on ElementalEnglish.com.

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