How to master word stress

2/9 post of the series “The 9 basic pillars to speak English well

 
In English like in other languages you need to know how to stress words correctly.

Even if your English pronunciation is perfect, if you don’t master word stress, I can assure you that native English speakers are going to fight a lot in order to understand you.
In English there are no written accents in words (like you can find in other languages) and then you have to know or guess where to stress every word.

Let’s see how to stress words correctly…

How to master word stress

 

Why Is Word Stress So Important?

Before sharing with you some basic rules to help you master word stress, I want to make sure that you are really aware about how important is to stress words correctly in English.

Here is an example to show you that:

– Example 1:
Imagine that your pronunciation is not very good, but you stress words correctly like that…

“I woke up at seven because I wanted to arrive at the meeting on time. But sadly because of a traffic jam, I’m still driving.”

– Example 2:
Now imagine that your pronunciation is perfect, but you stress words incorrectly like that…

“I woke up at seven because I wanted to arrive at the meeting on time but sadly because of a traffic jam, I’m still driving.”

In the first example, as you stress words correctly, English speakers are going to understand you even if your pronunciation is not perfect.
But in the second example, I can guarantee you that it’s going to be very difficult to understand you because you stress words incorrectly, even if your pronunciation is good.
As you can see, it’s even difficult to read the second sentence because it doesn’t sound natural at all.

That being said, I think that if you didn’t, now you do agree with methat word stress is a must if you want to speak English well.

Let’s now take a look to some rules that are going to help you to stress words correctly.

 

How To Use These Rules?

In my humble opinion it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to stress uncommon English words like the next ones…

  • Phlyarologist
  • Apanthropinization
  • Pseudisodomous

But in the other hand it does matter a lot to know how to stress basic and very common words like for example…

  • Phrasal verbs: Make up, Find out…
  • Compound words:  Hardware, Basketball…
  • Proper nouns: New York, North Dakota…
  • Abbreviations: FBI, CIA…

I’m going to share with you some of the most important rules about word stressing.
I don’t want you to learn these rules by heart. You just have to use them as a guide to improve how you stress words.
Use the next rules whenever you don’t know how to stress a particular word.

 

Basic Rules To Master Word Stress

Let’s see some basic rules that are going to help you to stress most words correctly…

1. Two syllable nouns, adjectives and adverbs
Rule: You usually stress the first syllable Examples: Teacher, Student, Sunday, Market, Paper, Brother, Sister
2. Two syllable verbs
Rule: You usually stress the last syllable
Examples:  To receive, To admit, To record, To relax
3. Compound noums
Rule: You usually stress the first word
Examples:  Seafood, Iceland, Classroom, Software, Homework, Football
4. Compound adjectives
Rule: You usually stress the second word
Examples:  Bad-tempered, Old-fashioned, hard-headed
5. Compound verbs
Rule: You usually stress the second word
Examples:  To understand, To overflow, To overlook
6. Phrasal verbs
Rule: You usually stress the second word (preposition)
Examples: To run out, To call off, To break down,  To wake up
7. 2 words proper noums
Rule: You usually stress the second word
Examples: New York, North Dakota,  Mr. Smith,
8. Abbreviations
Rule: You usually stress the last letter
Examples: FBI, CIA
…How to stress 3 or more syllable words
Let’s talk about how to stress these kind of words in an upcoming post…

 
Very important note
As you can see, I always say “You USUALLY stress…”.
I say “usually” because these rules don’t work for all 100% of the words,  but they work most of the times.

 

As Always…Exceptions To The Rules

At some time some doubts are going to show up…

– Doubt 1:
“George, you told me that two syllable nouns are stressed in the first syllable and I heard “record” instead of “record” can you explain that?”

Answer: Be careful with heteronyms. There are words that can be either a noun or a verb. When they are used as a noun you stress the first syllable. When they are used as a verb you stress the last syllable. Ex: “a record” (noun) and “to record” (verb)

 
– Doubt 2:
“George, you also told me that compound nouns are stressed  in the first word but I hear “ black bird” instead of “ Blackbird” can you explain me that too?”

Answer: Be careful with “compound nouns” versus “Adjective + Noun”. Compound nouns are stressed on the first word. But sometimes instead of a compound noun you have an adjective + noun. In this case you have to stress the noun.

Compound noun Adjective + Noun
The Whitehouse
(the house of the president of the US)
A white house
(a house that’s painted in white)
A Blackbird
(a specific genre of bird)
A black bird
(a bird with black feathers)
Slimboy
(someone’s nickname)
A slim boy
(a boy that is slim)

 

And Remember…

How to master word stress_

 

What To Do Next…

The 9 basic pillars to speak English well
– How to master English pronunciation … Coming soon!
– How to master sentence stress … Coming soon!
– How to master the Schwa sound … Coming soon!
How to master English intonation
How to master connected speech
How to master English contractions
– How to master thought groups … Coming soon!
– How to master Word Ending pronunciation

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