How to stress

Do you know how to stress? I don’t mean feeling worried and stressed out!
I mean word stress and sentence stress — what exactly does that mean?

Word stress and sentence stress are similar — they use the same sound features, but just on a different level. Word stress involves strong syllables and weak syllables in a word, and sentence stress involves strong words and weak words in a sentence.

There are 3 primary factors that go together for stress. When we compare the sound of un-stressed syllables, to stressed syllables, the stressed syllables are: 1. louder, 2. higher in pitch, and 3. a little slower.

Most students can make the sound of stress correctly, but sometimes I find a student who uses only two of those factors, but not all three, and it sounds a little strange.

I will try to demonstrate the difference it makes, if you do not include all three factors, using this sentence:

My phone is not on the table.

That sentence has 3 stressed (strong) words: phone, not, and table.

Now I will say the same sentence without all 3 factors, as best I can. It’s actually hard for me to say them the wrong way accurately, but hopefully you will be able to hear that they don’t sound like normal English.

This is what it sounds like if I make the strong words louder and higher, but not slower.
This is what it sounds like if I make the strong words louder and slower, but not higher.

Now let me say it correctly once more.

Now you know how to 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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