Non-stressed words are considered function words such as:

After students have learned basic and vowel sounds, they should move on to learning to differentiate between individual sounds by using . Once they are comfortable with individual words, they should move on to intonation and such as . Finally, students can take the next step by .


First of all, you need to understand which words we generally stress and which we do not stress.

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Say this sentence aloud and count how many seconds it takes.

The beautiful mountain appeared transfixed in the distance.

Time required?

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Probably about 5 seconds. Now, try speaking this sentence aloud.

He can come on Sundays as long as he doesn't have to do any homework in the evening.

Time required? Probably about five seconds.

Wait a minute. The first sentence is much shorter than the second sentence!

The beautiful Mountain appeared transfixed in the distance. (14 syllables)
He can come on Sundays as long as he doesn't have to do any homework in the evening. (22 syllables)

Identify which words are content words and should be stressed in the following sentences:

Sunday = Roast Beef + Yorkshire Pudding + Downton Abbey

Speak to your native English speaking friends and listen to how we concentrate on the stressed words rather than giving importance to each syllable. As you begin to listen and use stressed words, you will discover words you thought you didn't understand are really not crucial for understanding the sense or making yourself understood. Stressed words are the key to excellent pronunciation and understanding of English.

Roast beef dinner is a traditional British Sunday meal

Namely, English is considered a stressed language while many other languages are considered syllabic. What does that mean? It means that, in English, we give stress to certain words while other words are quickly spoken (some students say eaten!). In other languages, such as French or Italian, each syllable receives equal importance (there is stress, but each syllable has its own length).

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Even though the second sentence is approximately 30 percent longer than the first, the sentences take the same time to speak. This is because there are five stressed words in each sentence. From this example, you can see that you needn't worry about pronouncing every word clearly to be understood (we native speakers certainly don't). You should, however, concentrate on pronouncing the stressed words clearly.

Words in italics are stressed content words while unstressed function words are in lower case.

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Many speakers of syllabic languages don't understand why we quickly speak, or swallow, a number of words in a sentence. In syllabic languages, each syllable has equal importance, and therefore equal time is needed. English however, spends more time on specific stressed words while quickly gliding over the other, less important, words.

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