Rhythm in English comes from two different areas:
In order to understand word stress in English, you need to know what a syllable is. A syllable can only be one of two things:
|1 vowel OR|
1 vowel + 1 consonant
To have a syllable then, you must have at least 1 vowel. The number of consonants is not important.
For example: sun.
|[s] is consonant||[u] is a vowel||[n] is a consonant|
That means the word [sun] has 2 consonants and 1 vowel. So how many syllables does it mean the word [sun] has? The answer is: 1 syllable. The reason is that it only has 1 vowel.
One more example: how about the word [Macdonald]?
|[m]||is a consonant|
|[a]||is a vowel|
|[c]||is a consonant|
|[d]||is a consonant|
|[o]||is a vowel|
|[n]||is a consonant|
|[a]||is a vowel|
|[l]||is a consonant|
|[d]||is a consonant|
How many vowels does the word [Macdonald] have then? 3 vowels.
So when you pronounce the word [Macdonald], you should only pronounce 3 syllables, not 4 and not 5, otherwise, listeners will be very confused and will probably ask you to repeat, which can be embarrassing.
|Most 2 or 3-syllable words also have 1 stress but… some 4 or more syllable words could have 2 stresses, 1 primary stress and 1 secondary stress.|
Let’s see some examples of word stress:
In English, sentence stress is the key to creating the rhythm of the language. Rhythm, among a few other things, is what native speakers depend on to understand the message(s) of the speaker. In English, we usually stress…
Do not be confused between word stress and sentence stress. In word stress, we look at the syllable we stress in a word, but in sentence stress, we look at the word we stress in a sentence.
Now let’s make the sentence longer by adding an adjective and adverb.
It depends on the purpose of the message we're trying to communicate, but in general, we stress the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs (content words) in the sentence as they are the ones that essentially carry the full weight of the message.
Notice that [my] [the] [me] [to] and [his] (referred to as "function" words) were not stressed in example 2 because they bore no impact on the meaning of the sentence. That is generally the case. However, there are many situations when we do stress the "function" words as follows:
1-My new friend's invited ME to his party (not YOU)
2-My friend's invited me to HIS party (not YOUR party)
Word Stress Rule 1
Only 1 syllable can be stressed in a word.
In long words, there can be 1 primary stress and 1 secondary stress. It is important to remember that 1 vowel forms 1 syllable; the numbers of consonants do not count.
"sing" is 1 syllable; 1 vowel and 2 consonants (s-i-ng)
"sting" is 1 syllable; 1 vowel and 3 consonants (s-t-i-ng)
"string" is 1 syllable; 1 vowel and 4 consonants (s-t-r-i-ng)
"hamstring" is now 2 syllables; 2 vowels and 6 consonants
"hamstring" can only have 1 stressed syllabe (HAMstring)
Word Stress Rule 2
In 2-syllable nouns, the first syllable is normally stressed.
Word Stress Rule 4
In 2-syllable verbs, the second syllable is normally stressed, but there are many exceptions to the rule.
Word Stress Rule 3
In 2-syllable adjectives, the first syllable is normally stressed.
Word Stress Rule 5
In 3-syllable verbs ending with either -ly or -er (the -er is not really a rule but rather a common pattern, the first syllable is normally stressed.
Word Stress Rule 6
In words with suffixes -sion, -tion, -cian, -ious, -ic, -ient, -ial, -able, -ia, -ish, stress falls on the syllable preceding them, -Oo if the suffix consists of 1 syllable like -ic, and -Ooo if it consists of 2 syllables like -able. Some suffixes can either be pronounced as 1 syllable or 2 syllables depending on what precedes them like -ian.
Word Stress Rule 7
In words with suffixes -cy, -ty, -phy, -gy, -al, stress falls on the 2nd syllable preceding them (-O0cy, -Ooty, -Oophy, -Oogy, -Ooal).
Word Stress Rule 8
In many (not all) words with suffixes -ade, -ee, -eer, -ese, -que, -oon, the suffix itself is stressed.
Word Stress Rule 9
When a noun comprises two words, the first syllable is stressed.
Word Stress Rule 10
In reflexive pronouns, the second syllable is always stressed.