How To Use English Intonation?

Learn how to use English intonation!

English intonation, or intonation in any language, can be described as the music or melody of the language. It’s a pronunciation feature that is about how we say something, rather than what words we’re using.

The main elements of English intonation are:

  • How high, low or flat your voice is -the pitch
  • Stressing or emphasising certain syllables or words
  • pauses for where you would expect a comma –rhythm
  • varying volume

English intonation conveys meaning, attitude, intention and sometimes grammatical structures.

Intonation conveys attitude or how someone feels about something- sad, bored, happy, excited, interested, annoyed, sarcastic, disapproving etc, which naturally changes the meaning you make of the words. If you don’t incorporate correct English intonation in your speech, people won’t understand you very well.

Grammatically, we change the intonation depending if it’s a statement, question etc.

For example:

He said he was going.

He said he was going?

He said he was going!

He said he was going, because he liked her.

If you use flat pitch to emphasise words all the time, you will come across as bored or depressed in English. In English when you stress a word, you need to go up in pitch for the main stressed vowel.

For example:

I can’t come this time.

If I don’t do this it sounds like this:

I can’t come this time.

Practise tip:

Take a sentence and practise it using different intonation each time- emphasise different words, stress different syllables, go up or down with your pitch on different words and pause before or after different words etc. This way you begin to get some mastery of these elements, and also you’ll get more understanding of how it changes the meaning, and how you can modulate the meaning.

Let me give you an example.  (Also, listen for where my pitch goes up and down, where I raise my volume, and where I pause as well.)

I can’t come this time.  

I can’t come this time.

I can’t come this time.

You can also practice this by mimicking how and where the trainers use intonation with the many, many practice sentences in the speak more clearly courses.

Also, for more tips check out this article on how to improve your intonation.

If you found this video helpful, please share it with someone who would benefit from it 🙂

Happy practicing and bye for now.

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