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A. Reszkiewicz, Correct Your English Pronunciation, Warszawa : Past. Wydaw.


First, it is necessary to know which words in a sentence are to be stressed and which must not be stressed.

Secondly, it is necessary to know how stressed syllables are to be pronounced, and how unstressed
syllables are pronounced.

1. The nature and kinds of stress

A stressed syllable always has full, strong pronunciation, it is never weak, and never contains the reduced
vowel [] or any other reduction of the kind [i] in place of [i:], [u] in place of [u:], or [] in place [u].
equal equality
i:kwl ikwlti
addict (v) addict (n)
dkt dkt
escort (v) escort (n)
sk:t esk:t
A stressed syllable is pronounced more forcefully.
The stressed syllable occur at as regular intervals as possible. This is the main feature of English stress: its
rhythmic quality.
Money is the root of all evil.
The last of the stressed syllables, e- in evil, is the most important in the stress pattern. This is so according
to the general principle that within any closed or uninterrupted word group with a few regular stresses the
last one is the most important. The first three stressed syllables are pronounced on high, level tones
(initial), the last, central one (nuclear) has a falling tune.

S e co n d a r y s tr es s
Unstressed syllables also fall into two groups:
What are you looking for?
There are two stressed syllables (what, look) and three unstressed syllables (are, you, -ing). What about
for? It has full, unreduced pronunciation with a long [o:] and rhythmic quality, but on the other hand it is
pronounced with weaker energy than are what and look-.
What are you looking for?
What is he talking about?

2. General principles of word accentuatio n in connected speech.
Words that carry lexical meaning are normally stressed, and auxiliary, structural or grammatical
words are usually unstressed.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A little is better than none.
o In a negative sentence, it is either the auxiliary verb or not which takes the stress.
He is not lazy.
He is not lazy. or He is not lazy.
o Contracted forms: isnt, hasnt, doesnt are stressed.
o Question words are usually stressed.
What time is it?
How much is it?
o Demonstrative pronouns are usually stressed.
These are the best.
That coat is very nice.
o Possessive pronouns are stressed.
That is yours. This isnt like ours.
o Emphatic pronouns are stressed as a rule.
The Prime Minister himself has come tonight.
I have done it myself.
o Nearly all indefinite pronouns are stressed.
Well have none of it.
Tell me all you know about it.
o Interjections are usually stressed.
Well, no, I dont think you are right there.
Oh, no, thats where I disagree with you.
o Relative pronouns are usually not stressed.
Ask him what he wants.
Is this the place where you work?
o Reflexive pronouns are not stressed.
He hurt himself.
How did you enjoy yourselves?

Certain words can fall into either of the two groups, depending on the function (do, have, any,
his, in, most, one, on, some, that, who, pronouns in self). Examples:
DO, when used as an ordinary verb, is stressed: I have nothing to do. Do what you like.
DO as an auxiliary (so-called operator) is normally unstressed: What do you want? What did you say?
HIS: stressed as a possessive pronoun, unstressed as a possessive adjective (before a noun):
That is his. I met his father.
ONE is stressed:
- as a numeral: One swallow doesnt make a summer.
- when preceded by the definite article the: Its not the one I want.

ONE is unstressed:

- as the impersonal pronoun: One must always do ones best.

- as a prop-word: This one is better than that one.

Words which carry lexical meaning are usually stressed. Yet if in a given conversation a word has just been
used, we say it without stress, when in that context some other, new elements are more important.
Despite loss of stress, such a word still preserves a full pronunciation.
This is a pen. It is a red pen.
Normally we stress the phrase like this: a red pen. In the given context, however, because the word pen
has already been used, the word red, as a new element in the second sentence, now takes the nuclear

Inserted words or phrases

All kinds of words, phrases or clauses like please, you know, he said, John asked or proper nouns in the
vocative, when inserted into or added after the main message, lose their stress but preserve a full
pronunciation, i.e. secondary stress:
Come to the blackboard, Jane, please.
We often go to the seaside, answered my wife.
A proper name at the beginning of a sentence is fully stressed, in final position it only has a secondary
Jack went away.

Nouns with a rather general meaning

thing, person, place, man, woman, fellow, time, park, matter, rate

Thats a nice picture. Thats a nice thing.

There is a man upstairs. I think he is a professional man.

Verb before subject

On the top of a hill stood an old church.
When the verb takes the position before the subject of the sentence it is usually unstressed.

Adverbs of degree

Adverbs of degree, especially about, so, enough, such usually lose their stress:

Its about a mile from here.

I am a little better today.
I saw a boy of about eight.

Pronominal adverbs

Pronominal adverbs such as there, then, so, yet are usually unstressed when they stand at the end of the

Do you think so?

I think I shall visit you then.

now, yesterday, here also if we dont want to emphasize them in any way:

What are you doing now?

How do you like it here?

Words which are usually not stressed, do take stress in certain clearly defined circumstances:

Auxiliary verbs are stressed in the following cases

1. At the end of an utterance before a pause if preceded by a pronoun.
Here it is.
Where have you been?
In short answers of the type Yes, I can the auxiliary verb is usually stressed, if it is an answer to a
general question.
Can you speak English? Yes, I can. No, I cant.

But if its a reply to a specific question about a subject, then it is the subject alone that takes the
Who is on duty today? Mary is. I am.
2. In questions with any of the forms of to be, if the subject is expressed by a pronoun.

How are you?

Where am I?

When the subject is expressed by a noun or demonstrative pronoun, the verb be is unstressed.

What is that? but What is it?

Where are my shoes? but Where are they?

3. In general questions, when the auxiliary is initial in the sentence.

Shall I get you some coffee?
Are you in a hurry?

1. In short special (detailed) questions which consists of just a question word and a
Where from?
What for?
In similar questions, if the verb is any of the forms of to be.
Where is he from?

Conjunctions which come at the beginning of the sentence and have an unstressed word directly after
them are usually stressed for the sake of rhythm.
As I was in a hurry, I took a taxi.


English is a rhythmic language. Theres a strong tendency for stressed syllables to be interspersed
with unstressed ones.

A little is better than none.

There will also be no cause for change in the sentence stress if two stressed one-syllable words are
used directly one after the other.

That coat is very nice.

If, however, a tightly-knit syntactic group (one within which no pause is possible) is formed from
three stressed words, the stress upon the middle word tends to be omitted.
- Two letter abbreviations are stressed on both elements: M.P., U.K.
- In three-letter abbreviations only the first and the third elements are stressed, and middle
element loses its stress: ABC, B.B.C., Ph.D. The same applies to numbers (3-0-8 - ri:-u eit)
and other three-element phrases: roast beef but hot roast beef, a good thing but a very
good thing

1. Omission of stress
i. Omission of stress according to the rule of three stresses
Nouns rarely lose stress for reasons of rhythm. Examples:
I never say no to a hot cup of tea.
Adjectives may lose stress only in the position directly before a noun, provided that the preceding
word is stressed, but this is not a firm rule:
I had a very high temperature.
But it is also possible to say:
I had a very high temperature.
Numerals lose stress regularly only between other numerals (three-digit numbers):
Adverbs such as yet, quite, much lose stress easily, when between stressed words, especially after
a negative verb:
He hasnt yet paid for it.
Adverbs of degree, like only, very, too, so, still often lose stress in the position between a stressed
word and the word they modify:
I came back only last night.

Dont be too long.
Thanks very much.
In all the above clauses, the adverbs could have been stressed, and they ought to be stressed in
slower speech:
Dont be too long.
Adverbs of manner (well, quickly, fast) never lose stress on account of rhythm.
Content verbs lose stress easily when they occur between stressed words:
a) between the subject and predicate:
Everything looked bright.
b) between the subject and object:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
c) after an auxiliary verb in the negative form, when a stressed word follows:
I didnt know the way.
But in slow, careful speech the stress remains:
I didnt know the way.
d) when the stressed words before and after the verb are more important semantically:
Isnt it possible to get a doctor?
I never drink tea.
e) after lets if a stressed word follows:
Lets play a game.
Lets go home.
Auxiliary verbs in the negative lose stress when they occur between two stressed words:
- in special questions: Why dont you study English? Why didnt you stop him?
- in sentences where the subject is stressed: The house isnt large enough.
- Demonstrative pronouns often lose stress in the position before a noun, when the preceding
word is stressed:
- Are these sentences too hard?
- Put down that parcel.
- Indefinite pronouns lose tress:
a) in the position between an adverb that modifies the pronoun and the word it in turn
How many minutes is your watch slow? I am quite all right.
b) in the position after any other stressed word:
Thats all right. But: I am all right today. He was working all day.

ii. Words with a double stress

Words and juxtapositions with two uneven stresses regularly lose the secondary stress. Words and
juxtapositions with two even stresses lose one of them according to the rule of three stresses, i.e., that
stress which finds itself in immediate or close proximity to a stressed word is omitted: conscientious
He is too conscientious.
He is a conscientious worker.
If, however, a word with two stresses is both preceded and followed by a stressed word, then its nuclear
(central) stress survives, and its high (initial) accent is dropped.
He is a very conscientious worker.
Further examples: artificial
She has artificial eyelashes.
Her pearls are artificial.
Yours is a diplomatic answer.
Your answer is diplomatic.
New York
He is a New York journalist.
He lives in New York.
If a two-stress word occurs at the end of the sentence and there is no stressed word directly next to it,
both stresses may be retained:
My size is thirty-seven.

iii. Phrasal (two-word) verbs and compound verbs

Two-word verbs of the type take off, put on, call back, and compound verbs like understand, are governed
by the rule of three stresses:
(a) if in the sentence there is no stressed word close to the verb, both stresses are realized:
to put up: We must put up with it.
(b) when a stressed word serves as the subject, stress is omitted from the verb, and the adverbial particle
remains stressed:
Jack went away. but: He went away.
(c) if the subject is an unstressed word, or if it is altogether missing, and the object is a stressed word, the verb
keeps its stressed and the adverbial particle becomes unstressed:
Turn the radio on. Turn on the radio.

Shes gone out shopping.
(d) if both the subject and object are words which should be stressed, then in the case when the object comes
between the verb and the adverbial particle, both elements of the phrasal verb lose stress:
John put his coat on.
Whos turned the radio on?
(e) if the whole of the phrasal verb goes in between the subject (a stresses word) and the object (or some
other stressed word), three possibilities exist: both elements are stressed, or just the verb, or just the
adverbial particle:
The sun shone out warmly and the traveller took off his cloak.
The sun shone out warmly and the traveller took off his cloak.
The sun shone out warmly and the traveller took off his cloak.

iv. Expressions with four potential stresses

Compound expressions, like date numerals 1919, 1961, and abbreviations of the type U.S.S.R., take stress
only on the first and the last elements:
1919 nineteen nineteen
1961 nineteen sixty-one
U.S.S.R. U.S.S.R.
Some sentences with four potential stresses are sometimes stressed in the same way when the first
stressed word is semantically more important than the second or third:

It doesnt make much sense.

2. Insertion of additional stress

Such classes of function words as prepositions and relative pronouns may receive stress under favourable
conditions, i.e. when preceded or followed only by unstressed words.
a) Prepositions
Shall we walk up the hill? Shall we walk up there?
They live near the school. Its near the post office.
Polysyllabic prepositions are stressed even more often.
after the war
He left the room without a word.
b) Also relative pronouns receive stress when there are no stressed words close to them:
I dont know where to go.

Up to this point only non-emphatic, unemotional sentences (radio announcements, descriptions) were
considered. In conversations we emphasize what we think is important. We can distinguish at least two
categories of emphasis:
A) emphasis designed to underline the sense of the utterance or to express a vivid protest
B) emphasis intended to stress the contrast between two ideas or facts
The simplest method to underline a word in an utterance is to stress it with a greater force.

More than one word can be distinguished in an utterance:

Without emphasis With emphasis

Its perfectly ab surd. Its PERfectly ab SURD.

I am tired of waiting. I am TIRED of WAITing.

Its also possible to underline just the last stressed word in the utterance, with the other words preserving
normal stress:

That would be SPLENdid!

I didnt say a WORD!

Another common method of expressing emphasis is to stress function words, which are usually
unstressed. This is done primarily with auxiliary verbs, personal and possessive adjectives.
a) Auxiliary verbs
Without emphasis With emphasis
You are looking tired. You are looking tired.
I have been helping you. I have been helping you.
I shall do it. I shall do it.
b) Personal
Without emphasis With emphasis
You must be serious about it. YOU must be serious about it.
c) Other parts of speech
Any other unstressed words may become stressed for special purposes:
For is a preposition.
Shall we go out now?
Another method of expressing emphasis is by means of a special grammatical construction, like the
use of do in affirmative statements or the use of the pronoun you in imperative sentences:

Do be careful.
We did warn you.
You make the tea and Ill set the table.