A major element for great IELTS results is English pronunciation fluency.  You need to be able to hear and use the English weak and strong forms in words of more than one syllable. I have written about this before, but this time I want to actually train you to attune your ear to be able to hear which syllable/s are said strongly (stressed) and which are said weakly (unstressed).

Why is this important for your IELTS results?

  • Firstly, if you can’t hear or distinguish if a syllable is stressed (strong form) or de-stressed (weak form), then you can’t say it properly.  You end up miss pronouncing long English words! This makes you difficult to understand.
  • Secondly, stressing the right syllables in longer words in English makes your English speech sound more fluent and flowing when you speak. It makes you sound more like a native speaker which is what you need  to get to levels 8 and 9 in your IELTS exam.
  • Getting English pronunciation fluency, means you are getting and using English rhythm and stress patterns properly. These are elements that make a difference for IELTS exams at the higher levels.

Better IELTS Results-English Pronunciation Fluency

Lots of people understand that certain syllables are stressed and others are not in words of more than one syllable in English, but they may have difficulty hearing which is the weak and which the strong form when a native English speaker is speaking. If you can’t hear it, you can’t reproduce it in your own English pronunciation.  It takes a bit of practise to hear it, and also in some 2 syllable words both syllables are stressed more or less equally. In the following audio lesson, I will train you to begin to attune your ear to the weak and strong form in longer words so you can hear it. When you can hear it, you can reproduce it in your own speech, which means better IELTS results.



IELTS Fluency training- text for Audio lesson

2 syllable words with equal stress on both syllables

Very –we hear the ‘e’ clearly in  ‘ve’ and the ‘ee’ clearly in ‘ry’ The ‘y’ consonant can act as a consonant and vowel.  Both vowels are clear so both are stressed syllables giving an even rhythm. Da Da

The same with many- me- ny-both vowels clear (the ‘a’ says ‘e’ but the ‘e’ is still a clear ‘e’ and not an ə vowel –otherwise it would be məny.)

In upturn the ‘u’ and ‘er’ are said as ‘u’ and ‘er’, as they should be. In the word platform, you hear the vowels in both syllables clearly ‘a’ and ‘or’. The rhythm is DADA. The same applies for undone, contact and mentor. There are more words that follow this pattern. Listen out for them.

2 syllable words with unequal stress on both syllables

One syllable is the strong form or stressed syllable, and one is the weak form or unstressed syllable. If you come from a language background that doesn’t have words with unstressed syllables, then you may need to learn to actively de-stress vowels and say them as a schwa or / ə / vowel. This takes practise. You can practise saying the de-stressed syllable a few times for your mouth and jaw to get used to the rhythm.

You will know if the syllable is the strong form because you can hear the vowel is said clearly such as o, i, a, ay, ow etc.

You can hear if the syllable is the de-stressed or weak form, if it’s not clear what the vowel is. That is the vowel has been replaced by a totally different vowel the schwa vowel, the / ə /, and doesn’t sound like it is meant to. Whenever you hear the / ə/ schwa vowel replace the vowel in a syllable, you know you have found the de-stressed or weak form syllable.



That’s right you can hear the ‘o’ clearly so ‘con’ is the stressed syllable. The ‘a’ in ‘tant’ becomes a schwa vowel -st ənt- and so ‘tant’ is the de-stressed syllable. I don’t say con stant but const ənt. So the rhythm is DA da not DA DA.


The ‘o’ is the schwa and the weak form ‘cən’, and the ‘ai’ is the strong form ‘tain’.  The rhythm this time is da DA


Yes, the ‘u’ is de-stressed ‘səg’ , and the ‘e’ is the stressed syllable ‘gest’.

And said more quickly:  suggest (x2)   I don’t say suggest but suggest.      So the rhythm is da DA

Strong and weak syllables in words of 3 or more syllables.


The first ‘e’ is stressed ‘te’, and the ‘i’ becomes de-stressed ‘ri’, and the ‘ble’ has a very quick schwa between the b and l ‘bl’. It’s not bull, but bl.  The rhythm is DA da da


Both ‘a’ vowels are de-stressed ‘əc’ and ‘tənt’, and the ‘ou’ is the clear vowel, and so the stressed syllable.


Yes, the two ‘a’ vowels are de –stressed ‘əc’ and ‘tə’, and also the 2nd ‘i’ is also said as the weak form. The ‘ou’ is a clear vowel ‘coun’ as are the first ‘i ‘ and the ‘y’.      The rhythm of this word is da DA da DA da DA


The stressed syllables are ‘in’, ‘com’ and ‘hen’. The ‘prə’, ‘sə’ and ‘ble’ ( there’s a very quick schwa between the b and l) are the weak syllables.   The rhythm is DADAdaDAdada


The ‘or’, ‘i’, and ‘sa’ are the stressed syllables –you can hear the vowels clearly, and the ‘gən’ and ‘tion’ syllables are the de-stressed syllable.  The rhythm is DAdaDADAda

Words where a syllable is omitted

For example, comfortable becomes ‘comftable’ not com for table, but comf table.  The ‘or’ syllable is dropped completely and you go straight from the ‘f’ to the ‘t’ in table. To do this you need to hold the ‘f’ on slightly longer to get ready for the ‘t’. comftable –also note the ‘a’ in table becomes a schwa vowel ‘təble’.

Another example is interest. It isn’t in ter est, but ‘intrest’. You leave out the ‘er’ vowel. ‘intrest’.

The last example is specifically. The ‘al’ part of the word is omitted. So it’s not specifically, but ‘specificly’ Straight from the ‘k’ sound to the ‘l’ sound.  The ‘ci’ and ‘ly’ syllables are stressed and the ‘spe’ and ‘fi’ are de-stressed.

Another way to figure out which are the stressed and de stressed syllables in longer words is to say the word several times stressing different syllables in turn. Notice which way sounds right.

Once you train your ear you can listen to those around you, and then be more aware of  how they pronounce longer words.

Best wishes, Esther

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