Word Stress and Syllables

English Pronunciation, Lesson 02

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Word stress and syllables are the next important things to learn about English pronunciation and accent.

Click Here for the American Accent Audio Course.

The letter A


Syllables

A syllable is a word, or part of a word, which contains a single vowel sound. It is a single unit of speech.

Each word contains one syllable, or more.

1 Syllable

Here are examples of words with a single syllable:

pen

man

pig

cup

hat

In English, a vowel sound can be made of more the one vowel letter.
So the following words have a single syllable as well:

feet

moon

cake

have

break

bought

All of these words contain only one vowel sound, and therefore a single syllable.

2 Syllables

A word can have more than one syllable. The following words are examples of words with two syllables. Here are examples of words with 2 syllables. The different syllables are shown on the right, and they are separated with a space.

garden:  gar  den

hotel:  ho  tel

consist:  con  sist

object:  ob  ject

focus:  fo  cus


3 Syllables

Examples of words with three syllables:

September:  sep  tem  ber

department:  de  part  ment

telephone:  te  le  phone

camera:  ca  mer  a

Saturday:  sa  tur  day

hamburger:  hum  bur  ger

vitamin:  vi  ta  min

4 Syllables

Examples of words with four syllables:

kindergarten: kin  der  gar  ten

information: in  for  ma  tion

January: ja  nu  ar  y

American: A  mer  i  can

discovery: di  sco  ver  y


That is not all, of course. There can be words with even more syllables. But you get the point, right?

Word Stress

When a word has more than one syllable, not all syllables are pronounced with the same degree of force. The syllable which is pronounced with greater force is called the stressed syllable. You can also call it the accented syllable. "Accent" in this case means "emphasis".

When speaking, it is important to put the stress on the correct syllable. 
Otherwise, it would sound unnatural, and might even be difficult to understand!

Watch the following video for a full explanation and demonstration of word stress:



Here are some examples of the word stress of some common words (the stress part is bold):

water:  wa  ter

people:  peo  ple

television:  tel  e  vi  sion

together:  to  geth  er

potato:  po  ta  to

before:  be  fore

begin:  be  gin


Now, have you read all the explanations and watched the video? Very good!

Click Here for the American Accent Audio Course.

You are almost ready to move on to the next lesson, but before that, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:

  1. What is a syllable?

  2. What is a stresses syllable/accented syllable?

  3. How can you know where to put the stress for each word while speaking?

Have you answered the questions? Awesome!

For more information read the Word Stress Rules in English.

Well done! You have completed the Word Stress and Syllables lesson.

Let's move on...

Your next lesson: Lesson 03, Long E Sound (meet, see)

List of Lessons

Lesson 01: International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Lesson 02: Word Stress and Syllables

Lesson 03: Long E sound (meet, see)

Lesson 04: Short I Sound (sit, hit)

Lesson 05: UH Sound (put, foot)

Lesson 06: OO Sound (moon, blue)

Lesson 07: Short E sound (pen, bed)

Lesson 08: Schwa Sound (the, about)

Lesson 09: UR Sound (turn, learn)

Lesson 10: OH Sound (four, store)

Lesson 11: Short A Sound (cat, fat)

Lesson 12: UH Sound (but, luck)

Lesson 13: Soft A Sound

Lesson 14: Long O Sound

Lesson 15: Long A Sound

Lesson 16: Short O Sound

Lesson 17: Diphthong (a combination of two vowel sounds)

Lesson 18: P and B sounds

Lesson 19: The Nasal Sounds (M, N, NG)

Lesson 20: The F and V Sounds: f (four, lift, graph, tough), v ( love, knives, grave, vine)

Lesson 21: W Sound (wow, quit, where)

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