Stress - English Oral Skills Notes

Share via Whatsapp


  • Not all syllables in a word are given equal emphasis. By the same token, not all words in a sentence are said with equal length.
  • The relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or certain words in a sentence is what we refer to as stress.
  • You say a syllable or a word is stressed when it is said louder or longer than the rest.
  • Stress is studied in two levels:
    1. Word level; and
    2. Sentence level.

Stress at the Word Level

  • A part of a certain word when said louder or longer then it is stressed.

Rules of Word Stress

  1. For two-syllable nouns and adjectives, stress the first, for example
    Cloudy        carton         table
  2. For verbs with two syllables and prepositions, emphasize the second syllable, for example Trans/fer—two syllables
  3. Words with three syllables.
    1. Those ending in – er, -ly, emphasis put on the first syllable, for example,
    2. Stress the first, for those ending in consonants and in – y, for example,
    3. Stress the last syllable if the word ends in – ee, -ese, -eer, -ique, -ette, for example,
    4. Look at the ones with the suffixes below, where stress is placed on the second,
      • -ary: library
      • -cial: judicial, commercial
      • -cian: musician, clinician
      • -tal : capital, recital

— Stress is important in studying the heteronyms. A pair, or group of words is referred to as heteronym when those words are spelled the same way but have different pronunciation and meaning. We have two main categories of heteronyms:

  1. Noun- verb pairs; and
  2. Verb -and-adjective pairs.

— We stress the first syllable if noun and the second if verb.

Examples of noun-and-verb pairs are included in the table below:

Noun Verb Noun Verb
Abuse   Graduate  
Record   Cement  
Convert   Wind  
Abuse   Sin  
Contest   Produce  
Duplicate   Excuse  
Polish   Insult  
Rebel   Permit  

— In sentences;

  1. Many factories produce the produce we import.
  2. Allan became a convert after deciding to convert to christianity.

Sentence Stress

  • Sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence.
  • Most sentences have two basic word types:
    1. Content words which are the key words carrying the sense or meaning- message.
    2. Structure words which just make the sentence grammatically correct. They give the sentence its structure.

      Look at the sentence below:

      Buy milk feeling tired.

      Though the sentence is incomplete, you will probably understand the message in it. The four words are the content words. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, are content words.
      You can add words to the sentence to have something like:

      Will you buy me milk since I am feeling tired?

      The words: will, you, me, since, I, are just meant to make the sentence correct grammatically.
      They can also be stressed to bring the intended meaning.

Now let’s study the sentence below:

Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt.

— Each word in the sentence can be stressed to bring the meaning as illustrated in the table.

Sentence Meaning
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. She doesn’t think that, but someone else does.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. It is not true that Joan thinks that.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan doesn’t think that, she knows that.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Not Akinyi, but someone else. Probably Njuguna or Adhiambo.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi did something to the green skirt, may be washed it.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi stole someone else’s green skirt, but not mine.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. She thinks Akinyi stole my red skirt which is also missing.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi stole my green shirt. She mispronounced the word.


Exercise 1

  1. The words that follow can be nouns or verbs dependingon the stressed syllable. Use each as both the verb and noun in a single sentence.
    1. Cement
    2. Address
    3. Permit
    4. Content
  2. Underline the part of the word in boldface you will stress in each of the following sentences.
    1. The boy has been asked to de.sert the de.sert.
    2. My handsome es.cort will es.cort me to the dance.
    3. After updating my re.sume, I will re.sume my job search.
    4. They have to con.test in the annual Math con.test.
    5. If you con.vict me, I will remain a con.vict for 5 years.

Exercise 2

Each word in the sentences below can be stressed to bring the meaning. What will be the meaning when each word is stressed?

  1. I love your sister’s handwriting.
  2. You came late today.
Join our whatsapp group for latest updates

Download Stress - English Oral Skills Notes.

Tap Here to Download for 50/-

Why download?

  • ✔ To read offline at any time.
  • ✔ To Print at your convenience
  • ✔ Share Easily with Friends / Students

Read 4522 times Last modified on Monday, 17 January 2022 08:05
Get on WhatsApp Download as PDF
Subscribe now

access all the content at an affordable rate
Buy any individual paper or notes as a pdf via MPESA
and get it sent to you via WhatsApp


What does our community say about us?