Sentence Stress Part 2

Sentence Stress is the combination of strong and weak words in a sentence which create a sort of rhythm. This rhythm is explained in Sentence Stress Part 1. But, which words are strong and which words are weak? Here are the categories with some examples.

Strong words

Nouns: book / capacity / Tom / melody / justice / group / chair / storm / potato
Main verbs: walk / think / sing / expect / prepare / wait / jump / remember / indicate
Adjectives: beautiful / green / small / angry / round / active / old / fresh / good / several
Some adverbs: quickly / never / always / often / usually / nervously / softly / carefully
Negatives: no / never / not / can’t / shouldn’t / doesn’t / won’t / isn’t / aren’t
Question words: who / what / when / where / why / how

Weak words

Auxiliary (helping) verbs: can / could / may / might / would / will / be / do / have
TO BE: am / is / are / was / were / be / been
Linking verbs: got / seem / feel / become / turn
Pronouns: I / me / my / you / he / him / his / she / it / they / them
Prepositions: in / on / under / over / by / for / with / from / at / through
Some adverbs (at ends of phrases): soon / now / yet / well / here / there / still
Conjunctions: and / but / if / either / because / nor / yet / for
Articles: the / a / an

These categories make the basic pattern and the foundation of sentence stress. However, sometimes a weak word gets used as a strong word, but a weak word should only be stressed when there is an appropriate reason to do so. Otherwise, it can cause some confusion in the conversation.

Examples of how weak words can become strong words are in Sentence Stress Part 3.

A final note: DO and HAVE

Are the verbs “do” and “have” main verbs, or helping verbs? The answer is: both.
Here are some examples to illustrate.

DO as a main verb: She will do it tomorrow.
DO as a helping verb: I do not like chocolate.
HAVE as a main verb: They have a new baby.
HAVE as a helping verb: We have finished early.

So, when “do” and “have” are main verbs, they are strongly stressed words, but when they are helping verbs, they should be weak words for normal sentence stress.

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About Pronunciation Coach
I am a language teacher, with over 20 years of experience teaching ESL & Spanish.

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