The key to sounding like a native speaker is the rhythm of your speech. When trying to improve their pronunciation, a lot of people put all their effort and energy into learning how to say the individual sounds of English properly. These people don’t realise that until you understand the rhythm of English, you will just be speaking English with the same rhythm you have in your first language. Your English will be unclear and sometimes hard for native speakers of English to understand. That’s why you must learn as much as you can about the rhythm of English.
Word stress is one of the features that gives English its distinct rhythm. In this lesson, you will learn the grammatical rules of word stress. Importantly, you will see how changing the stress of the word sometimes changes the meaning of the word into something completely different! Test yourself on word stress rules with the quiz: http://www.engvid.com/word-stress/
“Hi. I’m Jade. What we’re talking about today is word stress in English. What’s word stress? Well, it’s part of the rhythm of English, and it’s what can help your English sound much more natural. So we’ll be looking at that. But more specifically, we’ll be learning some rules for word stress because you might understand it in principle, “Yeah some parts of the word are stressed, and some bits aren’t.” But how do you actually apply that? And that’s what you’re going to learn today.
So we’ll start by looking at an interesting sentence, “We must POLISH the POLISH furniture.” “Polish” is an action, verb, for cleaning something, making it shiny; and “Polish” is an adjective for furniture from Poland. So although they’re the same spelling, they have different sounds, and that’s because of word stress. And we’ll look at those words. So just make a note of it. That’s the verb, and that’s the adjective. And we’re going to — we’re now going to look at where to put the stress.
So the general rule for two-syllable words is: the noun or adjective, the stress is on the first syllable. The noun or adjective, the stress is on the first syllable. And that’s how you show word stress. The stress is the circle, and the unstress is a line. It’s above the — it’s probably not something you can see right now. I’ve just realized. So I’ll do it like that. You can see now. What about this one, the verb? The verb is the second syllable. So unstress; stress for the second syllable.
Let’s have a look at some sentences with the word stress rules. So in these sentences, I’ve got examples where we’ve got a noun in a sentence and a verb with a similar meaning in a different sentence. So you will hear a little bit of a different pronunciation. Perhaps quite a subtle difference in pronunciation, but the stress is in a different place. So I’m going to show you that.
So in this sentence, “decrease” is in the noun form. So looking at our rule, where is the stress here? On the first syllable. We show the stress by the circle and the unstress by the line. And what about this one? “Decreased” is in the verb position, so we swap; we stress the second syllable. Now, I’ll read them to you. “There has been a DEcrease in wages. Wages deCREASED last year.”
Let’s take a look at the second one. “Present” here, is a noun because we’ve got “a” there, “a lovely present”. So, again, we put the stress here. And here is the verb. So we do that pattern again. Now, I’ll read them to you. “Tom bought me a lovely PREsent.” Second example, “We now preSENT the star of the show.”
Let’s take a look at this third example here. “Permit” — “permit” in this sense, “You need a PERmit to park here” is saying — in England, you need a little piece of paper from the government to say that you can park in some places. So it means you are allowed to park there. And it’s similar to the verb, which means “to allow”. So “PERmit” here is a noun. Because it’s a noun, we’re going to stress the first syllable. And here, “perMIT” is in the verb form, so we’re going to change it. We’re going to do it like that. And I’ll read those to you now. “You need a PERmit to park here.” Compare that to, “The school doesn’t perMIT students to wear trainers.” So it’s not “per” anymore; it’s “pe”, “pe-MIT”.
When we come back, we’re going to look at some other general rules and important things to know about word stress.
Are you ready for more word stress rules? Well, first of all, we’ve got some exceptions. In the case of exceptions, the pronunciation is the same for the verb, the adjective, and the noun if they have one.