Customers often ask for tips on how to use our accent reduction courses to improve their English stress and intonation, and English stress and rhythm. In this second part of my series on practical training in English stress and intonation, I will give you training on a second element. That is, how to use correct syllable stress in words. By the end of this 4 part series you will see how to work on English stress and intonation with our courses so you know exactly what to do to use the main elements required to speak with smooth, flowing English speech and correct intonation and rhythm.

English Stress and Rhythm Problem – what happened to a customer in a restaurant

My Aunty tells the story of two people sitting at a table  in a restaurant next to her table. The waiter approached and said, ” Are you com- for -table?”  The customers looked at the waiter in a puzzled way and said, “No we haven’t come for a table, we’ve come for dinner.”

English Accent Training Part 2- English Stress and Rhythm- Correct Syllable Stress in Words

Practise stressing the right syllables in words with more than one syllable

In a stressed syllable, the vowel is said clearly, is held on slightly longer, and the pitch rises and falls slightly. This pitch difference is part of the intonation or melody of English. 

In an unstressed syllable, the vowel is not clear but said as a short /u/ sound – the schwa vowel  sound / ə/.

For example in the word ‘currently’ – the syllable “rent”, is the weak one so the word should be said ‘currəntly’ or ‘comfortable’ should be said ‘cumftəble’ (just as the waiter in the story should have said!).

 Again, as with the stressing of main meaning words I spoke about in Part 1, you also need to learn to de-stress (say the vowel weakly as a schwa vowel, not as a clear  vowel), the syllable that is the weak form. You need to learn to have the contrast or play between strong and weak – stressed and de-stressed in your speech  for correct English stress and rhythm. This is all part of English accent training.

Stress on different syllables can sometimes change the meaning of a word totally.

For example: `ob ject (noun)- a thing

ob `ject (verb) – to disagree to something


Practise Tip

1) Use any of the sentences on any of the pages of our English accent training course, and also in the dialogues section that have words of more than one syllable in them.

Listen to the trainer in our course say the sentence, and mark the stressed and de-stressed syllables in the longer words -remember in the stressed syllable you can hear the vowel said clearly, and in the de-stressed one it sounds like a short ‘u’, the schwa vowel.

Mimic the trainer’s production including mimicking exactly how the vowels sound including the pitch rise and fall etc., Make sure you are noticing and saying  the stress and de-stressed vowels correctly, for the rhythm of the words. The advantage of having auditory training with a trainer say whole sentences,  is  you make a new recording of how you need to sound for your new English pronunciation in your head, so you can recall it when you need. When you can recall the correct sound of English, it is easier for your mouth to sound like that.

Also look in the section in our course called “Sentences for working with stress and meaning.”

2) If you are not sure how a long word  is pronounced for English stress and rhythm, type it into for the British accent and the  American accent and you can hear how to pronounce it.  Then, practise saying it in a sentence you make up, and make sure you say the word in the sentence with the right stress and rhythm.

For The Australian accent and stress patterns, write the word you want to know how to stress in the comments section below and I will reply with the answer.

Click here for Part 3 of my English accent training stress and intonation series.

Best wishes,


P.s. Click here to read Part 1.

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