The Importance of Prosody in English Pronunciation

Mastering Prosody in English

Hi, it’s Ann from Speak More Clearly!

In this English pronunciation training, I’d like to talk about the importance of prosody, and specifically punctuation, and specifically commas, or the speech equivalent which is pausing.

Often our students think that being fluent in English means speaking fast. There’s nothing wrong with speaking quickly, but if you aren’t pausing when you need to, then you aren’t speaking English properly.

Definition of Prosody

Prosody in English pronunciation refers to intonation, stress pattern, loudness variations, pausing, and rhythm. We express prosody mainly by varying pitch, loudness, and duration. These elements of prosody in English help us to be expressive and help to convey intent and emotion and through this, our meaning.

Prosody involves emphasizing the right words, using voice pitch and changes, and taking appropriate pauses. This is important in social situations, and very important when you are presenting to others.

In writing, intentional pauses are used to show units of grammatical construction, such as sentences or clauses. These can be indicated in writing by full stops, colons, semi-colons, and commas. Depending on the meaning you want to convey to the reader, the pauses may vary. For example, a full stop is a longer pause than a comma, and ‘commas’ are essential in speech also, otherwise, you could find yourself in big trouble.

In this pronunciation training, we’re going to concentrate on the comma pause in speech. This is especially important for people whose background language is syllable-timed and not stressed-timed, like English. Syllable timed rhythm is more like dadadadada, and stress timed is more like Dada daDA DADA dada.


Practice Sentences:

I’ll say the sentence without a pause first, and then the same sentence with a pause.

I’ll say it twice. The first time just listen to the difference and how I make the pause and how long the pause is and copy where I go up and down with my pitch or intonation. 

1. Without a pause:

Time to eat Grandma. 

(we will eat our Grandma)   


With a pause:

Time to eat, Grandma. 

(asking Grandma to come and eat)  

2. Without a pause:

Elephants please stay in your car. 

(the elephants are in the car)


With a pause:

Elephants, please stay in your car. 

(there are elephants about – don’t get out of your car)


3. Without a pause:

I love cooking my dogs and my family. – I hope not!! 

(They like actually cooking up their dogs and family to eat)      


With a pause:

I love cooking, my dogs, and my family. 

(a list of things they love)


4. Without a pause:

A woman, without her man, is nothing. 

(A woman is nothing without a man)


With a pause:

A woman, without her, man is nothing. 

(Men are nothing without a woman) 


You’ll notice with this one, they’re both correct but they have very different meanings!

For more pronunciation tips, check out this lesson on how to say 6 common words with clear English pronunciation.

Choose:- I want to speak more clearly in a…