10:31 am


Rhythm in English comes from two different areas:

  1. Word stress
  2. Sentence stress

1-Word stress

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:

1-syllable wordino
2-syllable wordinstantOo
3-syllable wordinstantlyOoo
4-syllable wordinstantiateoOoo
5-syllable wordinstantaneousooOoo
6-syllable wordinstantaneouslyooOooo

2-Sentence 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

Example 1
 o O o O o o o o O o

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.

Example 2
 o O o o O o o o o O o Ooo

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)