Word Stress


Nowadays, many people speak English or try to speak English with any sense. Actually, people should not do it! Human being should have a coherent way of speaking, of expressing the ideas, in order to be understood easily. We don't want to say that we have to speak in the same way of Americans, British (or any native speaker of the English language) especially because each person has its peculiar way of communicating. But, on the other hand, we should pronounce the syllables or words to express the speaker's feeling.

We were moved by the anguish of clarity absence, lack of intonation in the sentences in general, so, it is notorious the necessity to work word stress.

It is important to say that word stress is not used in all languages. In others idioms as French or Italian, each syllable receives equal importance (there is stress, but each syllable has its own length). It happens in all words with two or more syllables. Word stress is not an optional extra that you can add to English. It is a part of the language.

English is considered a stressed language while many other languages are considered syllabic. But, what does it mean? It means that, in English, we give stress to certain words while other words are quickly spoken.


In our research, we looked for some theoretical foundation that served us as subsidies. Josef Essberger says that Stress is a king of worried feeling about life or work. But there is another kind of stress that actually helps us understand. This other kind of stress is an accent that we make on certain syllables and words when speaking English.

As we said before, in some languages people say each syllable with equal force. But in English, and some other languages, we put a big force (stress) on some syllables and no force on other syllables or words. This can make it difficult for speakers of other languages to understand English is spoken in a quick way.

Paul Seligson, a person that has been teaching English as a Foreign Language since 1978 and has trained teaches worldwide, comments that there are some tips that a student needs to know: produce the stress patterns on individual words and in sentences where key words which carry meaning are stressed. And he says more important things that a student need to recognize: the rhythm produced by regular stress. This in turn produces weak forms and simplifications which can be difficult to hear and understand. Seligson wants to say that sentence stress is another golden key for speaking and understanding English. We can emphasize some words in the sentences depends on the situation. Saying this statement, for example: I bought a new car yesterday. If I want to emphasize the time, Ill say the adverb of time with a different accent. (I bought a new car YESTERDAY). But if I want to emphasize that my car is a new one, the adjective will be forced. (I bought a NEW car yesterday).

There are many similar words, that the word stress are in different syllables. Ill explain: In the word PHOtograph, there are three syllables, and the stressed syllable is the first one. The word phoTOgrapher (four syllables) and the stressed word is the second one. The word photoGRAPHic (four syllables), the stress word is the third one. It is important to say that there are many rules to identify the stress word. But we should say that it is not so important to know the rules because if we practice the language and speak it fluently we can identify the stress word without these rules.


its necessary to create a good atmosphere for teaching word stress and sentence stress. Its necessary to have a purpose to teach such subject and it shouldnt be taught at random. The debates will always be present in the discussion of the sentences and words, the organization, the aspects should be taken into account. Another very important point is that the student should give his/her opinions about the subject. With questions, the doubts will be solved. Listening comprehension or go to your native English speaking friends and listen to how we concentrate on the stressed syllable are very important things. Starting from there, you will soon find that you can understand and communicate more because you begin to listen for (and use in speaking) stressed words. All these words that you thought you didnt understand are really not crucial for understanding the sense or making yourself understood. Stressed words are the key to an excellent pronunciation and understanding of English.

What is Word Stress?

In English we do not say each syllable with the same force or strength. In one word, we accentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big, strong, important) and all the other syllables very quietly.

This happens in ALL words with 2 or more syllables: TEACHer, JaPAN, CHINa, aBOVE, conversation, important.

There are two very important rules about word stress:

1. One word, one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. So if you hear two stresses, you have heard two words, not one word).

2. The stress is always on a vowel.


Why is Word Stress Important?
Word stress is not used in all languages. Think about the two words PHOtograph and phoTOgrapher. Now imagine you are speaking to somebody by telephone over a very bad line. You cannot hear clearly. In fact, you hear only the first two syllables of one of these words, photo Which word is it, photograph or photographer? Of course, with word stress you will know immediately which word it is because in reality you will hear either PHOto or phoTO (Of course, you also have the context of your conversation to help you)

Autor: Mírian L. G. Oliveira

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