In this 3rd article in the series on English accent training for stress and intonation we’re going to look at how to phrase words in longer sentences. This phrasing or grouping together of words in a sentence, is important. It’s another element you need to pay attention to when you want to improve your English stress and intonation so you speak more clearly and correctly in English.

Because words in English sentences aren’t said as equally stressed units, we listen for meaning and clarity of speech also according to how the words are grouped or phrased together. The grouping contributes to the stress or rhythm in sentences, and  it also contributes to correct English  intonation depending on where the phrase comes in the sentence.

English Accent Training Part 3- Stress and Intonation – How to Phrase Words In Sentences

  • When you phrase words together in English, you flow the words together- almost run them together as a unit.
  • If the phrase is not at the end of the sentence, then there is a very slight pause, and very slight pitch rise, and the vowel in the last word in the phrase is drawn out very slightly. So the intonation goes up. This is especially for a phrase ending in a comma. This signifies to the listener that you haven’t finished the sentence, and there is more to come so they need to wait and keep listening. 
  • When the phrase ends in a full stop the intonation goes down very slightly to signify the end of that thought.

For example: If you put that on the table now [‘ow’ gets held on slightly longer and your pitch or intonation goes from neutral  to up, and there’s a slight pause], we’ll remember to take it with us [pitch goes very slightly down].

  • When we ask a question in English the pitch or  intonation goes up.

For example: Are you coming? [ pitch starts down on the ‘come and  goes up for the ‘ing’]

Another example is:

The director said  he would divide the introduction  into two parts.

At the end of each phrase, there is a very slight pause, and very slight pitch raise, and the vowel is drawn out very slightly.

The words in the phrase (underlined chunks of words), are said smoothly and flowingly together.

The main meaning words to be stressed or emphasised are in bold.

Practise Tip for English Accent Training Stress and Intonation

1) Listen to the trainer in our accent reduction course say any of the longer sentences on any of the pages, or the dialogues, or the “Phrases for working with stress and intonation” section.  Notice how they phrase or group the words together, and the intonation they use. Mimic them exactly paying attention to these elements.

2) Write out a script of what you commonly say at work. Say it aloud to yourself and mark the phrases, and practise saying them smoothly and with the correct intonation pattern.  After all, you want it to sound natural at work.

Click here for part 4 in the series on English Accent training, stress and intonation.

Best wishes, Esther

P.s. Click here to read Part 1, click here to read part 2.

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