American English Intonation Patterns

Many of my clients tell me that native speakers have commented that their speech sounds a bit strange or unfriendly.

If this is happening to you, you need to learn about intonation patterns.

Intonation helps create the music of spoken American English. That’s because English speakers use different types of intonation or pitch patterns in sentences and phrases.

These intonation patterns, which are not visible in the written language, are extremely important because they convey meaning.

If you are not aware of how Americans use these pitch or intonation patterns you could risk confusing or even offending your listeners.

Here are some examples of how American listeners interpret pitch patterns:

• If you use an very high pitch it indicates that you are surprised.⤴

• If your pitch is too flat or neutral it may indicate that you are bored.➝

The most common intonation pattern in spoken English is rising falling intonation. In rising falling intonation the pitch rises on the most important word in a sentence and then drops⤵ to indicate that you are finished speaking.

Americans use rising falling intonation in declarative sentences, commands and when asking questions that begin with the words who, what, where, when and why.

For example, in the sentence-WHERE is she GOing?⤵ the pitch rises and falls on the word GOing.⤵

Another common intonation pattern is rising intonation. In this pattern the pitch rises and stays high at the end of the sentence. When you use rising intonation it indicates that you are waiting for a reply or an answer.

Americans use rising intonation for questions that they expect to be answered with yes or no, or when they are expressing doubt or surprise.

For example, in the sentence-The PREsident is HERE?!⤴-the pitch rises and stays high at the end of the sentence.

Even if you pronounce every vowel and consonant sound correctly you will have a difficult time connecting with American English speakers if you don’t use the correct intonation patterns.

Your speech patterns may sound rather dull to American listeners or they may even contribute to misunderstandings!

Try to listen carefully to the way Americans use sentence intonation and copy the patterns in your own speech. This will make your English sound much more natural to American listeners.♬

Most Chinese speakers, Spanish speakers and Indian language speakers need to learn how to use American English intonation patterns.

It is hard to learn intonation on your own, but once you learn the patterns by listening to an audio lesson you will be able to hear these and master them.

Of course I teach you all about American English intonation patterns in my online classUnlock Your American Accent: 5 Secret Keys to Communication Success.