Syllables and Stress

Word stress means emphasizing or pronouncing some syllables in a word longer in time / higher in pitch and louder in sound than the other syllables in a word. We are talking about which syllables in a word “to stress”.

Why do we need to understand stress?

Even if you correctly pronounce a word, it may not be understood by a native speaker because the stress is on the wrong part. So you need to understand where the stress is placed.

So stressed syllables are pronounced;

  • longer
  • higher
  • louder

Unstressed syllables are pronounced;

  • shorter
  • lower
  • quieter

The universal symbol for stress is which comes just before the letter (or letters) that needs to be stressed. You can check the words for pronunciation and stress in most modern dictionaries. Here is an example of a four syllable word photographer. The stress is on the {to}.

Photographer  /ˈtɒɡrəfə(r)/  (pho-to-gra-pher)

Syllables (Sílabas)

A syllable has one vowel sound and one or more consonant sounds.
Some Rules

  1. Words that end with “IC” have the stress on the second to last syllable.
  2. Words that end in “CION, TION and SION” the stress is again on the second to last syllable.

One syllable words
The whole word is therefore stressed.

Time  /taɪm/  (Time)

Fast  /fɑːst/  (Fast)

Brown   /braʊn/   (Brown)

Two syllable words

 Usually the stress is at the beginning with nouns and adjectives. With verbs it is usually with the second part. This rule is not always true. 

Silver  /ˈsɪl.vər/   (SIL-ver)

Number  /ˈnʌm.bər/   (NUM-ber)

Contact   /ˈkɒn.tækt/    (CON-tact)

Three syllable word

 Important  /ɪmˈpɔː.tənt/   (im-PORtant)

 Chocolate  /ˈtʃɒk.lət/    (CHOC-o-late)

December /dɪˈsem.bər/   (dec-CEM-ber)

Four syllable words  The stress is usually found in the middle of the word.

Experience   /ɪkˈspɪəriəns/   (ex-PER-i-ence)

Photographer  /fəˈtɒɡrəfə(r) (pho-TO-gra-pher)

Education    /edʒuˈkeɪʃn  (e-du-CA-tion)

Five syllable word

University  /ˌjuːnɪˈvɜːsəti/   (un-i-VER-si-ty)

Communication  /kəˌmjuː.nɪˈkeɪ.ʃən  (com-MU-ni-ca-tion)

Electricity   /el.ɪkˈtrɪs.ə.ti/    (e-lec-TRIC-i-ty)  

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