Some Rules Of Word Stress

Some Rules Of Word Stress

Should we say difficult or difficult or difficult ? And why? In English we don’t accentuate or stress every syllable in a word, we accentuate only one syllable in a word. 

For  example

  1. Teach–er
  2. Plas-tic

Learning word stress can seem to be a daunting task for ESL students. Where do we put the stress on polysyllabic words in English? Putting stress on the right syllable is quite natural for a native speaker without learning any rules. However, for non-native speakers, there are essential rules that determine how words are stressed or accentuated in English.

Word Stress Rules 

There are two basic things to keep in mind that will help you determine how to stress a word. As has been written in WORD, SENTENCE AND SYLLABLE STRESS   blog post, one word always has only one primary stress, one word can’t have two stresses. And the stress is always given on vowel sounds, consonants are never stressed. 

Here are some general tendencies for word stress in English:

Word type Where is the stress? Examples

Two Syllables 

Nouns On the first syllable Centre         Object        Flower
Verbs On the last syllable release         admit        arrange


   Nouns                        (N + N)                  (Adj. + N)  on the first part  desktop      pencil case bookshelf greenhouse
  Adjectives          (Adj. + P.P.) 

on the last      part           (the verb part) 

well-meant hard-headed  old-fashioned 
Verbs                  (prep. + verb)  understand overlook outperform

Let’s look at some more rules

Word type Where is the stress? Examples

Phrasal Verbs 

on the particle 

turn off,   hand out, Buckle up  

Word With Added ending 


the syllable before the ending 

economic, electrical 
-tion, -cian, -sion  Technician, graduation, cohesion  
-phy, -gy, -try, -cy, -fy, -al 

the third from the last syllable 

geometry, biology, Photography
meter Parameter, Thermometer, barometer 

Words having a dual role: In the case of words which can be used as either a noun or a verb, the noun will tend to be stressed on the first syllable and the verb on the last syllable.

Noun or ( AdjectiveVerb
  ‘import im’ port 
  ‘perfect per ‘fect 
  ‘progress  pro ‘gress 
  ‘present pre ‘sent 

This list of rules is not complete, but it does explain where to place the main accent in the majority of words in English. 

These rules are very easy to apply. However, If you’re not sure where the stress comes in a word, the best thing to do is to check in a dictionary. In the sound transcription of the word you will see the symbol ‘ before the stressed syllable.

More Pronunciation Articles At Be Invincible  

70 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words

Word Sentence & Syllable Stress

Accent And Identity, Prejudice & Insecurity

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