Stress is extremely important in English. Stressing the wrong syllable or pronouncing all syllables with equal stress are a common problem for non-native speakers. So how can I tell which syllable to stress?
Although the rules for stress are very complicated and have many exceptions, there are a few common patterns that are easy to remember.
Every word has one stressed syllable which is pronounced louder, longer and higher.
|Stress on 1st syllable:|
|Two-syllable nouns||label, format, table, coffee, breakfast|
|Two-syllable adjectives||lucky, grateful, handsome, boring, silly|
|Two-syllable adverbs||often, sometimes, mostly, rarely, never|
|Compound nouns||toothpaste, bookshelf, sunshine, headset|
|Stress on 2nd syllable:|
|Two-syllable verbs||invent, reply, decide, persuade, divide|
|Phrasal verbs||pass out, give up, turn off, give in|
USING GRAMMAR TO PREDICT STRESS
Sometimes, the same word can be either a noun or a verb. In general, nouns stress the first syllable, verbs, the second.
|MAKE up||Make UP||BREAK up||Break UP|
Notice the stress in the following noun/verb pairs.
- When someone insults me, I don’t take the insult very well.
- Someone should conduct an investigation into his conduct.
- I suspect the suspect will want to call a lawyer.
- I don’t recall the beef recall of the 1990’s.
- The final project will help us project a better image.