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Word Stress Rules in English

What is word stress?


In some languages, each syllable in each word is pronounced with the exact same stress.
English is not one of those languages. English has its own rhythm, complete with its own
vocal music. This means that one part of a certain word is said louder and longer than other
parts of the same word.
It is something that is completely natural for English speakers, but something ESL students
can learn from practicing their conversational skills and by learning the rules for using
word stress.
A few things to remember:
1. A word can only have one stress. In a very long word you can have a secondary stress
but it is always a much smaller stress.
2. Only vowels are stressed, not consonants. The vowels in English are a, e, i, o, and u.
The consonants are all the other letters.
Before continuing, make sure you read and understand the basics of Word Stress and
Syllables.
Word stress rules
1. Two-Syllable nouns and adjectives
2. Two-Syllable verbs and prepositions
3. Three-Syllable words
4. Words ending in er, or, ly
5. Words ending in consonants and in y
6. Words with various endings
7. Words ending in ee, ese, ique, ette
8. Prefixes
9. Stress on the second from the end syllable
10. Stress on the third from end syllable
11. Word stress for compound words
12. Phrasal verbs
13. Proper nouns
14. Reflexive pronouns
15. Numbers
1. Two-Syllable nouns and adjectives
In most two syllable nouns and adjectives, the first syllable takes on the stress.

Examples:
SAMples
CARton
COlorful
RAIny
2. Two-Syllable verbs and prepositions
In most two syllable verbs and prepositions, the stress is on the second syllable.
Examples:
reLAX
recEIVE
diRECT
aMONG
aSIDE
beTWEEN
More about word stress on two-syllable words
About 80% or so of two-syllable words get their stress on the first syllable.
There are of course, exceptions to this rule, but very few nouns and adjectives get
stress on their second syllable.
Verbs and prepositions usually get stress placed on the second syllable, but there
are exceptions to this too.
3. Three-Syllable words
For three syllable words, look at the word ending (the suffix), using the following as your
guide.
4. Words ending in er, or, ly
For words ending with the suffixes er, or, or ly, the stress is placed on the first syllable.
Examples:

DIRect/DIRector
ORder/ORderly
MANage/MANager

5. Words ending in consonants and in y


If there is a word that ends in a consonant or in a y, then the first syllable gets the stress.
Examples:

RARity
OPtimal

GRADient
CONtainer

6. Words with various endings


Take a good look at the list of suffixes below (suffixes are word endings).
Your stress is going to come on the syllable right before the suffix. This applies to words of
all syllable lengths.
Examples:
1. able: ADDable, ARable, DURable
2. ary: PRIMary, DIary, liBRary
3. cial: juDIcial, nonSOcial
4. cian: muSIcian, phySIcian, cliNICian
5. ery: BAkery, SCENery
6. graphy: calLIgraphy, bibliOgraphy, stenOgraphy
7. ial: celesTIal, iniTIal, juDICial
8. ian: coMEdian, ciVILian, techNIcian
9. ible: viSIble, terRIble, reSIstible
10. ic: arCHAic, plaTOnic, synTHEtic
11. ical: MAgical, LOgical, CRItical
12. ics: diaBEtics, paediAtrics
13. ion: classifiCAtion, repoSItion, vegeTAtion
14. ity: imMUnity, GRAvity, VAnity
15. ium: HElium, ALUminum, PREmium
16. imum: MInimum, MAXimum, OPtimum
17. logy: BIology, CARdiology, RAdiology
18. tal: caPItal, biCOAstal, reCItal
7. Words ending in ee, ese, ique, ette
Words that use the suffix ee, ese, eer, ique or ette, have the primary stress actually placed
on the suffix.
This applies to words of all syllable lengths.
Examples:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

ee: agrEE, jamborEE, guarantEE


eer: sightsEER, puppetEER
ese: SiamESE, JapanESE, cheESE
ette: cassETTE, CorvETTE, towelETTE
ique: unIQUE, physIQUE

8. Prefixes
Usually, prefixes do not take the stress of a word.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, like: un, in, pre, ex andmis, which are all
stressed in their prefix.
Examples:
1.
2.
3.
4.

ex: EXample, EXplanation, EXamine


in: INside, INefficient, INterest
mis: MISspoke, MIStake, MISspelled
pre: PREcede, PREarrange, PREliminary

9. Stress on the second from the end syllable


You put stress on the second syllable from the end of the word, with words ending
in ic, sion and tion.
Examples:
iCONic
hyperTENsion
nuTRItion
10. Stress on the third from end syllable
You put stress on the third from end syllable with words that end in cy, ty,phy, gy and al.
Examples:
demoCRAcy
TREAty
geOGraphy
ALlergy
NAUtical
11. Word stress for compound words
A. Compound noun
A compound noun is a noun made out of two nouns in order to form one word. In a
compound noun, the first word usually takes on the stress.
Examples:
SEAfood
ICEland
TOOTHpaste
B. Compound adjectives
A compound adjective is an adjective composed of at least two words.
Often, hyphens are used in compound adjectives. In compound adjectives, the stress is
placed within the second word.

Examples:
ten-MEter
rock-SOlid
fifteen-MInute
C. Compound verbs
A compound verb is when a subject has two or more verbs. The stress is on the second or
on the last part.
Examples:

Matilda loves bread but deTESTS butter.


Sarah baked cookies and ATE them up.
Dogs love to eat bones and love DRINking water.

D. Noun + compound nouns


Noun + compound Nouns are two word compound nouns. In noun + compound noun, the
stress is on the first word.
Examples:
AIRplane mechanic
PROject manager
BOARDroom member
12. Phrasal verbs
Phrasal verbs are words made from a verb and preposition.
In phrasal verbs, the second word gets the stress (the preposition).
Examples:

Black OUT
break DOWN
look OUT

13. Proper nouns


Proper nouns are specific names of people, places or things. For example: Jeniffer, Spain,
Google.
The second word is always the one that takes the stress
Examples:

North DAKOTA
Mr. SMITH
Apple INCORPORATED

14. Reflexive pronouns


Reflexive pronouns show that the action affects the person who performs the action. For
example: I hit myself.
The second syllable usually takes the stress.
Examples:
mySELF
themSELVES
ourSELVES
15. Numbers
If the number is a multiple of ten, the stress is placed on the first syllable.
Examples:
TEN
FIFty
ONEhundred
Word stress and dictionaries
Another great tip for beginning English learners is to grab a dictionary.
Dictionaries are great tools for learning word stress.
For every word, the dictionary indicates where the stress goes, for example by placing an
apostrophe before the stress.
Take a look at your dictionary to find out how your dictionary indicates word stress.
Rules of Word Stress in English
There are two very simple rules about word stress:
1. One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. If you hear
two stresses, you hear two words. Two stresses cannot be one word. It is true that
there can be a "secondary" stress in some words. But a secondary stress is much
smaller than the main [primary] stress, and is only used in long words.)
2. We can only stress vowels, not consonants.

Here are some more, rather complicated, rules that can help you understand where to put
the stress. But do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is
better to try to "feel" the music of the language and to add the stress naturally.
1 Stress on first syllable
rule

example

Most 2-syllable nouns

PRESent, EXport, CHIna, TAble

Most 2-syllable adjectives PRESent, SLENder, CLEVer, HAPpy


2 Stress on last syllable

rule

example

Most 2-syllable verbs to preSENT, to exPORT, to deCIDE, to beGIN


There are many two-syllable words in English whose meaning and class change with a
change in stress. The word present, for example is a two-syllable word. If we stress the
first syllable, it is a noun (gift) or an adjective (opposite of absent). But if we stress the
second syllable, it becomes a verb (to offer). More examples: the
words export, import, contract and object can all be nouns or verbs depending on
whether the stress is on the first or second syllable.
3 Stress on penultimate syllable (penultimate = second from end)
rule

example

Words ending in -ic

GRAPHic, geoGRAPHic, geoLOGic

Words ending in -sion and -tion

teleVIsion, reveLAtion

For a few words, native English speakers don't always "agree" on where to put the stress.
For example, some people say teleVIsion and others say TELevision. Another example
is: CONtroversy and conTROversy.
4 Stress on ante-penultimate syllable (ante-penultimate = third from end)
rule

example

Words ending in -cy, -ty, -phy andgy

deMOcracy, dependaBIlity, phoTOgraphy,


geOLogy

Words ending in -al

CRItical, geoLOGical

5 Compound words (words with two parts)


rule

example

For compound nouns, the stress is on the first part

BLACKbird, GREENhouse

For compound adjectives, the stress is on


thesecond part

bad-TEMpered, oldFASHioned

For compound verbs, the stress is on the secondpart

to underSTAND, to overFLOW

QUY TC NH DU TRNG M
1.
a s cc ng t 2 m tit th trng m chnh nhn vo m tit th 2 :
Example :

Enjoy collect escape


destroy enjoy repeat Allow
assist
accept
relax attract
accent Explain
descend forget
allow
maintain
consent .....
Ngoi tr : offer, happen , answer , enter , listen , open, finish, study, follow,
narrow...
2.
a s cc danh t v tnh t 2 m tit th trng m chnh nhn vo m tit
th 1
Example :
mountain
evening
butcher carpet
busy
village
summer
birthday porter
pretty
morning
winter
beggar
table
handsome .....
Ngoi tr : machine mistake alone asleep .....
3.
Danh t ghp thng c trng m chnh nhn vo m tit 1 :
Example :
raincoat tea- cup
film- maker
shorthand
bookshop
footpath
shortlist airline
bedroom
typewriter
snowstorm
suitcase
airport
dishwasher
passport
hot- dog
bathroom
speed limit sunrise
4.
Tnh t ghp thng c trng m chnh nhn vo t th 1, nhng nu tnh t
ghp m t u tin l tnh t hay trng t (Adjective or adverb) hoc kt thc
bng ui - ED th trng m chnh li nhn t th 2 . Tng t ng t ghp
v trng t ghp c trng m chnh nhn vo t th 2 :
Example :
home - sick air- sick praiseworthy water- proof trustworthy lighting- fast ,
Nhng :
bad- temper
short- sighted
well- informed
upstairs
well done
short- handed
north- east
down- stream
well dressed ill treated
downstairs
north west ...
5.
Cc t kt thc bng cc ui : how, what, where, .... th trng m chnh nhn
vo vn 1 :
anywhere somehow somewhere ....
6.
Cc t 2 m tit bt u bng A th trng m nhn vo m tit th 2 :
Abed
about
above
aback
again
alone
achieve
alike
Alive
ago
asleep
abroad
aside
abuse
afraid
7.
Cc t tn cng bng cc ui , - ety, - ity, - ion ,- sion, - cial,- ically, - ious,
-eous, - ian, - ior, - iar, iasm - ience, - iency, - ient, - ier, - ic, - ics, -ial, -ical, -ible,
-uous, -ics*, ium, - logy, - sophy,- graphy - ular, - ulum , th trng m nhn vo
m tit ngay truc n :
decision
dictation
librarian
experience
premier
society
artificial superior efficiency
republic
mathematics
courageous
familiar
convenient

Ngoi tr : cathonic (thin cha gio), lunatic (m lch) , arabic ( rp) ,


politics (chnh tr hc) arithmetic (s hc)
8.
Cc t kt thc bng ate, - cy*, -ty, -phy, -gy nu 2 vn th trng m nhn
vo t th 1. Nu 3 vn hoc trn 3 vn th trng m nhn vo vn th 3 t cui
ln
Senate
Communicate
regulate
playmate
congratulate
concentrate
activate
complicate, technology,
e`mergency,
certainty
biology
philosophy
Ngoi tr: Accuracy
9.
Cc t tn cng bng ui - ade, - ee, - ese, - eer, - ette, - oo, -oon , - ain (ch
ng t), -esque,- isque, -aire ,-mental, -ever, - self th trng m nhn chnh
cc ui ny :
Lemonade
Chinese
degree
pioneer cigarette kangaroo
saloon
colonnade Japanese
absentee
engineer bamboo
typhoon
balloon Vietnamese refugee
guarantee
musketeer
taboo
afternoon
typhoon, whenever
environmental
Ngoi tr: coffee (c ph), commitee (y ban)...
10. Cc t ch s lung nhn trng m t cui kt thc bng ui - teen . ngc li s nhn trng m t u tin nu kt thc bng ui - y :
Thirteen fourteen............ // twenty , thirty , fifty .....
11. Cc tin t (prefix) v hu t khng bao gi mang trng m , m thung
nhn mnh t t gc :
a.
Tin t khng lm thay i trng m chnh ca t:
UNimportant
unimportant
IM-

perfect

imperfect

IN-

Complete

incomplete

IR-

Respective

irrespective

DIS-

Connect

disconnect

NON-

smokers

nonsmokers

EN/EX-

courage

encourage

RE-

arrange

rearrange

OVER-

populated

overpopulated

UNDER-

developed

underdeveloped

Ngoi l:
Understatement: li ni nh i(n)
Underground:ngm (adj)
b.
Hu t khng lm thay i trng m ca t gc:
FUL
'beauty
beautiful
LESS
thought
thoughtless
ABLE
enjoy
enjoyable
AL
tradition
traditional
OUS
danger
dangerous
LY
direct
directly
ER/OR/ANT
worker / actor
NG/IVE
begin
beginning
ISE/ IZE
memorize
EN
widen
MENT
employment
NESS
happiness
SHIP
friendship
HOOD
childhood
12. T c 3 m tit:
1.
ng t:

Trng m ri vo m tit th 2 nu m tit th 3 c nguyn m ngn v kt thc


bng 1 ph m:
Eg: encounter /ikaunt/
determine /dit3:min/

Trng m s ri vo m tit th nht nu m tit th 3 l nguyn m di hay


nguyn m i hay kt thc bng 2 ph m tr ln: exercise / 'ekssaiz/,
compromise/ ['kmprmaiz]
Ngoi l: entertain /enttein/ comprehend ..
2.
Danh t:

Nu m tit cui (th 3) c nguyn m ngn hay nguyn m i u

Nu m tit th 2 cha nguyn m di hay nguyn m i hay kt thc bng 2


ph m tr ln th nhn m tit th 2
Eg: potato /p`teitu/
diaster / di`za:st/

Nu m tit th 3 cha nguyn m ngn v m tit th 2 cha nguyn m ngn v


m tit th 2 kt thc bng 1 ph m th nhn m tit th 1:
Eg: emperor / `empr/ cinema / `sinm/ `contrary `factory

Nu m tit th 3 cha nguyn m di hoc nguyn m i hoc kt thc bng 2


ph m tr ln th nhn m tit 1
Eg: `architect.
Ch : tnh t 3 m tit tng t nh danh t

Cch s dng t in
Cc loi t trong ting Anh
Cc loi cu trong ting Anh
1. Cu khng nh
2. Cu ph nh
3. Cu nghi vn
a s nhng t 2 m tit c trng m m tit u , nht l khi tn cng bng : er, or,
y,
ow,
ance,
ent
,
en,
on.
Ex:
ciment/ si'ment/: ximng event /i'vent/: s kin.
a s nhng t c 3 m tit c trng m m tit u , nht l khi tn cng l :ary,
erty, ity, oyr
a s nhng ng t c 2 m tit , trng m nm m tit th 2
Ex:
repeat / ri'pi:t/ :nhc li
Trng m trc nhng vn sau y: -cial, -tial, -cion, -sion, -tion,-ience,-ient,-cian
,-tious,-cious, -xious
Ex:
'special, 'dicussion, 'nation, poli'tician( chnh tr gia)
Trng m trc nhng vn sau: -ic, -ical, -ian,-ior, -iour,-ity,-ory, -uty, -eous,-ious,ular,-ive
Ex:
'regular, expensive/ isk'pensive/, 'injury.
Danh t ch ccc mn hc c trng m cch m tit cui 1 m tit
Ex:
ge'ology, bi'ology
T c tn cng bng -ate, -ite, -ude,-ute c trng m cch m tit cui 1 m tit
Ex:
institute / 'institju/ (vin)
a s danh t ghp c trng m ri vo m tit u
Ex:
raincoat /'reinkuot/ :o ma
Tnh t ghp trng m ri vo m tit u
Ex:
homesick/'houmsik/( nh nh)
Trng t ghp c trng m ri vo m tit th 2
Ex:
downstream/ daun'sri:m/( h lu)
Tnh t ghp c t u tin l tnh t hoc trng t th trng m ri vo t th 2, tn
cng bng -ed

Ex:
well-dressed/ wel'drest/( n mc sang trng)
Cc hu t khng c Trng m ( khi thm hu t th khng thay i trng m)
Ex:
V+ment: ag'ree( tho thun) => ag'reement( s tho thun )
V+ance: re'sist( chng c ) =>re'sistance ( s chng c )
V+er : em'ploy(thu lm) => em'ployer( ch lao ng)
V+or : in'vent ( pht minh) => in'ventor (ngi pht minh)
V+ar : beg (van xin) => 'beggar( ngi n xin)
V+al : ap'prove( chp thun) => ap'proval(s chp thun)
V+y : de'liver( giao hng)=> de'livery( s giao hng)
V+age: pack( ng gi ) => package( bu kin)
V+ing : under'stand( thiu) => under'standing( thng cm)
adj+ness : 'bitter ( ng)=> 'bitterness( ni cay ng)
Cc t c trng m nm m tit cui l cc t c tn cng l : -ee, -eer,- ese,- ain,
-aire,-ique,-esque
Ex:
de'gree, engi'neer, chi'nese, re'main, questio'naire( bn cu hi), tech'nique(k thut),
pictu'resque