#EngClass: Word Stress

Hi, fellas! Was today a good day? Or perhaps you just went through a stressful day? I hope not, but if you happen to have had a stressful day, how about putting those stressful events behind and learn to put a stress in a word instead? Yes, today we’re going to learn about word stress.

In English, we don’t pronounce every syllable (suku kata) in a word with the same strength. When saying a word, we put a stress (emphasis) in one syllable, and pronounce the other syllable(s) more quietly. Stressing a syllable means we say it a little longer or louder or with a higher pitch than the other syllables.

Every English word has one stressed syllable, and it’s important to stress the right syllable when we speak. Word stress helps the listeners tell one word apart from another. For instance, if you hear two stressed syllables, you hear two words. It helps us understand a speaker who speaks very fast.

Stressing the wrong syllable in a word can make the word difficult to hear, and therefore the listener can’t understand us. Stressing different syllable can even change the meaning of some words. For example, if you stress the first syllable in the word present, it’s a noun that means gift. But if you stress the second syllable (present), it becomes a verb that means to offer.

So how do we know which syllable to stress? Here are some general rules that you can follow:

  1. Stress the first syllable of most two-syllable nouns and adjectives, e.g., table, happy
  2. Stress the last syllable of most two-syllable verbs, e.g., decide, begin
  3. Stress the second-to-last syllable of words that end in –ic, –sion, and –tion, e.g., geographic, expansion, attention
  4. Stress the third-from-last syllable of words that end in –cy, –ty, –phy, –gy, and –al, e.g., democracy, uncertainty, geography, biology, critical

But there are some exceptions and many types of words that are not covered by those rules, so you should check the dictionary to be sure. Different dictionaries have different ways to mark the stressed syllable. Now, take a look at the pronunciation guide below the defined word in your dictionary.

  • Oxford Dictionary and Collins Dictionary: an apostrophe (‘) shows that the following syllable is stressed. Example: prəˈnaʊns means we stress the nounce in pronounce.
  • Dictionary.com: the stressed syllable is marked bold. Example: pruh-nouns

If you think, “I can’t possibly memorize the stressed syllable for every word in the dictionary!” You’re right. Perhaps the best way is to learn by practice. If you practice listening until you’re familiar enough with spoken English, I’m sure you’ve also learned the word stress. You just don’t realize it. Fluent English speakers use word stress all the time without thinking about it. It’s kind of the same way we use intonation in our sentences in Bahasa Indonesia.

So, now that we know that word stress is the key to understanding spoken English, we know why it’s important to learn English by listening. Listening can help you learn to speak English properly so that people understand you better. We actually have some #EngTips for you on that very topic: How to improve your English listening skill.

I hope this post has been useful for you, fellas. Have a good day!

(Source: teachingenglish.org.uk, englishclub.com, dictionary.com, oxforddictionaries.com)

Compiled and written by @fafafin for @EnglishTips4U on September 8, 2016

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3 responses to “#EngClass: Word Stress

  1. Pingback: #EngTips: How to improve your English listening skills | @EnglishTips4U·

  2. Pingback: #EngVocab: Substitutes of ‘very’ (2) | @EnglishTips4U·

  3. Pingback: #EngTalk: Tongue twisters | @EnglishTips4U·

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