Syllables and Word Stress – English Pronunciation Lesson

Hi, I’m Mikey. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn about syllables
and stress in English. Do you know what stress means? It’s one of the most important pronunciation
points in English. When you speak English, do other people find
it difficult to understand what you’re saying? If so, you might not be using stress correctly. Pronouncing words with the correct stress
can make a big difference to your English: your English will immediately sound clearer
and more natural. You’ll learn all about stress in this lesson,
but first, we need to talk about syllables. Listen to four words: fast
person beautiful
information Do you know how many syllables these words
have? Fast has one syllable: fast
Person has two syllables: per-son. Beautiful has three syllables: beau-ti-ful
Information has four syllables: in-for-ma-tion A syllable has one vowel sound (and only one
vowel sound) and one or more consonant sounds. Let’s do some more practice. Look at four more words: breakfast
banana tomorrow
university How many syllables do they have? Breakfast has two syllables: break-fast. Banana has three syllables: ba-na-na. Tomorrow has three syllables: to-mor-row. University has five syllables: u-ni-ver-si-ty. So, this lesson isn’t really about syllables;
it’s about stress. What’s the connection between syllables
and stress? Think about the word banana. Banana has three syllables. Do you pronounce all the syllables the same:
bah-nah-nah? No, you don’t—one syllable is stronger:
ba-NA-na. This is stress. If a word has one syllable, you don’t need
to think about stress. But, if a word has two syllables or more,
one syllable is always stressed: it has a strong, clear pronunciation. Let’s practice pronouncing word stress correctly. Let’s look at an example you just saw. banana Do you remember where the stress is? It’s on the second syllable: ba-NA-na. What makes the stressed syllable different? There are three things you need to do to pronounce
stress correctly. One: the stressed syllable should be louder. Two: the stressed syllable should be a little
higher. Three: the stressed syllable should be a little
longer in time. Let’s practice. First, listen to three words you saw before:
person beautiful
information Here, I was exaggerating the stress so that
you can hear it clearly. You don’t need to pronounce the stress this
strongly. However, when you practice, it’s a good
idea to try to overpronounce the stress a little. This will make sure that you are pronouncing
it correctly. So, where is the stress in these three words? Listen again, and this time, repeat the words
after me: person, beautiful,
information. Let’s try one more time: person,
beautiful, information. How was that? Could you pronounce the stress clearly? Next, let’s look at four more words you
saw before: breakfast
banana tomorrow
university This time, I pronounced the stress in a more
natural way. Could you hear it? Where is the stress in these four words? Let’s try one more time: breakfast,
banana, tomorrow, university. When you look up a word, you can find the
stress by looking at the phonetic transcription. The thing that looks like an apostrophe
shows you where the stress is. When you see this apostrophe, the next syllable
is the stressed syllable. When you write down new vocabulary, make sure
you record the stress, too. You can put a mark over the stressed syllable,
or underline it. At this point, you might be thinking: are
there any rules about word stress? How do I know where the word stress is if
I don’t have a dictionary? Let’s talk about that. We’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that there are some rules
about word stress in English. The bad news is that the rules don’t cover
everything, and even the rules which you do have don’t work all the time. Here’s one rule which is quite useful. It’s about words with two syllables. Look at five words: picture
minute money
doctor water All these words have two syllables. Where’s the stress? In all the words, the stress is on the 1st
syllable. There’s a reason for this: can you work
it out? What connects these five words? These words are all nouns. Nouns with two syllables usually have stress
on the 1st syllable. Let’s practice saying the words together. Repeat after me: picture, minute, money, doctor,
water. This is also true for most adjectives with
two syllables: happy
yellow useful
formal tiring What about verbs? Look at some examples and try to work out
the rule: decide
forget explain
arrive repeat Can you hear the stress? The stress is on the second syllable. Let’s practice saying the words together. Repeat after me: decide, forget, explain,
arrive, repeat. So, most nouns and adjectives with two syllables
have the stress on the first syllable, and most verbs have the stress on the second syllable. Be careful, because there are many common
exceptions, like hotel, happen, exam, or finish. What about longer words? Are there any rules you can use to find the
stress? In three-syllable words, the stress can be
anywhere; it can be at the beginning: anyone
beautiful possible It can be in the middle: computer
tomorrow expensive It can also be at the end, although this is
less common: afternoon
employee Japanese Let’s practice! Repeat after me: beautiful, tomorrow, employee. Let’s try three more: anyone, computer,
Japanese. In words with four or more syllables, the
stress is almost always in the middle of the word, not on the first or last syllable. For example: information
communicate photographer Try saying the words after me: information,
communicate, photographer. There are some other rules which can help
you to find the stress in longer words. Let’s look together. If a word ends -tion, -sion or -cian, then
the stress is always on the second last syllable: information
discussion politician Can you think of three more words like this? There are many, but here are three more suggestions:
situation, revision, electrician. The same rule is true for words ending -ic: economic
dramatic Atlantic
scientific Again, all these words have the stress on
the second last syllable. If a word ends with the letter -y and has
three or more syllables, then the stress is two syllables before the last one. For example: biology
luckily activity
possibility That means, if a word has three syllables
and ends in -y, the stress is almost always on the first syllable: chemistry
pregnancy robbery There’s one more rule which could help you
here: if a longer word is made from a shorter root word, then the stress is generally in
the same place as the root word. For example: comfort
comfortable discomfort
uncomfortable comfortably
comforting In all these words, the stress is in the same
place as the root word, comfort. However, the rules you saw before take priority. This means that the stress can move when you
make a longer word from a root word. For example: photograph ->photography ->photographic
economy ->economic educate ->education
Okay, now you’ve learned about stress, how to pronounce it, and how you can find the
stress in different words. But, there’s still one more very important
thing you should know about. Want to know a secret that will improve your
English pronunciation really fast? Here’s the most important point about word
stress: it’s about contrast. That means, when you pronounce word stress,
it’s not just about the stressed syllable. You also need to think about the unstressed
syllables. Remember that to pronounce stress, you make
the stressed syllable louder, higher and longer. Stress is about contrast, so the opposite
is true for unstressed syllables: you need to make them quieter, lower and shorter. Let’s look at three words you’ve already
practiced: banana
person information To pronounce the words well, you need to think
about the unstressed syllables, too. Often, the vowel sounds in the unstressed
syllables are reduced to schwa sounds–/ə/, or short /ɪ/ sounds. ‘Reduced’ means the vowel sounds are shorter
and weaker. For example, in the word banana, the stress
is on the second syllable: ba-NA-na. The stressed ‘a’ has an /aː/ sound, but
the other two ‘a’s’ have schwa sounds: banana. In the word person, the first syllable is
stressed, and the second syllable has a schwa sound: person. And in information, the syllables before and
after the stressed syllable reduce to schwas: information. Unstressed syllables can’t always be reduced,
but they often can be. If a vowel sound is reduced, it most often
shortens to a schwa sound. We’ll finish with a simple tip to help you
pronounce word stress clearly and naturally. Focus on the stressed syllable, and put more
stress on it than you think you need. Pronounce the unstressed syllables as fast
as you can. If you do this, you’ll have contrast in
your pronunciation, and this will make your word stress sound natural and clear. Finally, we have a question for you: what
do you think is the most important pronunciation skill to speak clearly in English? Leave your suggestions in the comments! For more practice with this topic, check out
the full lesson on our website: Oxford Online English dot com. Thanks for watching!

100 thoughts on “Syllables and Word Stress – English Pronunciation Lesson

  1. Share a translation in your own language and help others learn about syllables and stress:

  2. Well, thanks to you guys I got through another semester on university! Because without the phonetics class, I wouldn't got through.. Thanks!

  3. when i was at high school, i had difficult in doing stress-related English assignment. my life would have been easier if I had learnt this video

  4. I'd like a video about reductions made in the middle of sentences, with words like: remember, little, already, probably, etc.

  5. You both should be pronnouncing the same, the girl makes a "tap T" while the guy uses a strong T. Like in "beautiful" or in "water". I'm not sure who to follow

  6. Hi there, just a quick question out of curiosity. You said in the video that stressed syllables are higher in terms of pitch. Isn't the change in pitch linked to a question of intonation rather than a matter of word stress? I also would have added, beyond a matter of duration and maybe volume, stressed syllables have clear and loud vowels whereas unstressed syllables have weaker vowels (almost like a schwa). I keep hearing different explanation on word stress, I really would like to have your insight on this. Thanks!

  7. love this! I think slang words are tough not only in pronunciation but context as well. different parts of the world even in the same country or can be very difficult to follow

  8. The second to last syllable is called a penultimate syllable ..,.and the 3rd from the end is called the anti penultimate ….I already facilitate learning by heart to my learners , if the word ends in tion, sion ic, ics we stress the second from the end …just learn it as a song…and if the word ends with cy, ty, phy, by, cal we stress the 3 from the end

  9. Thank you for showing this video. It is very important and useful for speaking and listening in English. I absolutely knew what syllables are and how to pronounce word stress in English clearly. I love Oxford Online English!!!

  10. That's means Improving pronunciation and giving more trusting in your possibilities when you are speaking and understanding the other side when want bring information which you want of the words during the speaking and memorize absolutely that would help to raise up your skills in and give more confident steadily to reach your goal too

  11. Why can't I find this male teacher with this beautiful voice on your platform anymore? 
    Why can't I find this male teacher with this beautiful voice on your platform anymore? 
    There have been noun videos featuring this teacher since Feb. What a great shame if he (Mikey) left your team.

  12. I have a quistion can you answer me ?
    When I know how to put stress how can I put( ') like in beautiful I'm I going to put this here 'beautiful or here b'eautiful because you select two letters???

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