Syllable Stress in American English

When you listen to American English speakers you might have noticed that they always stress one syllable in each word more that the others.

That’s because in spoken English, one syllable in a word always pronounced with more emphasis than the other syllables. The vowel in the stressed syllable is lengthened and articulated with a slightly high and clear sound.

Pronunciation and accent reduction teachers call this emphasis syllable stress. Learning to use syllable stress is one of the very best ways to improve your English pronunciation and reduce your accent.

There are a series of rules or patterns you can use to decide which syllable to stress in an English word. Here are four of these patterns:

1. The first part of a a compound noun is typically stressed.
For example: NOTEbook, HAIRcut, AIRport, BATHroom.

2. Stress is usually placed on the syllable that contains the ROOT or BASE word. That means that word prefixes are usually not stressed.

Here are a few examples: unPAID, inCLUDE, preDICT, reMIND (these are verbs)

3. Word suffixes are usually not stressed.
Here are a few examples: SLOWly, FASTer, SPEAKing, CAREful

4. Exceptions to the suffix rule are words of French origin such as millionAIRE, volunTEER and picturESQUE.

If you haven’t noticed the way Americans use syllable stress you absolutely must start to listen for it.

I teach you everything you need to know about American English syllable stress in my accent reduction coaching program.

Once you can recognize and use this KEY feature of spoken American English the rhythm of your speech will improve and people will be able to understand you much more easily!

Most accent reduction and American English pronunciation books do not spend enough time on this KEY topic. The best book that I’ve found for learning syllable stress rules is Accurate English: A Complete Course in Pronunciation.