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English Pronunciation Practice Exercises 1

Content or Function?

First, you need to be able to immediately distinguish between content and function words. Write
down 'C' for content and 'F' for function. When you have finished click on the arrow to see if you
have answered correctly.

Example: magazine (C) as (F) many (F)

1. went
2. with
3. just
4. quickly
5. the
6. hard
7. next to
9. open
10. had

Which Words?

Next, take a look at the sentences and mark the words that should be stressed. Once you have
decided, click on the arrow to see if you have chosen the correct words.

Example: Jack (yes) went (yes) to the shop (yes) to grab (yes) some coke (yes).

1. He had finished breakfast before I arrived.

2. Phillip ordered a huge steak for dinner.
3. They will have to stay up late if they are going to finish their homework.

4. It must have been something in the air that caused Jack to shout.

5. Could you please be more quiet?

Notice how some of the shorter sentences actually have more stressed words than the longer ones
(2 compared to 3). These shorter sentences can often take longer to speak than longer sentences
with many function words!!!

The Music of English

English is a very rhythmic language because of this tendency to accent only certain words. For
this reason, you should practice using your ear as much as possible. Often repeating spoken
English without looking at the written sentence can also help you learn this 'music' of the
language. Click on the audio symbol below to listen to five sentences. Each sentence will be
repeated three times with gaps in-between so that you can try repeating the sentences yourself. If
you need some help, here are the sentences which you can listen to and read while working on
this exercise.

Helping Yourself at Home

Finally, practice speaking through the sentences below. First speak the sentence trying to
carefully pronounce EVERY word. Notice how unnatural this sounds (as in the listening exercise
above showing the contrast between this unnatural pronunciation and the natural way of
speaking). Next, focus on speaking the sentences only working on stressing the content words.
Tape yourself doing this and you will be surprised at how quickly your pronunciation improves!

He drove to work after he had finished working in the garden.

You'll find the apples next to the oranges on the shelf over there.
Maggie must have been visiting her aunt in Springtown last weekend.
Could you pass me the mustard, please?
They have been considering buying a new car as soon as they have saved enough money.

Pronunciation Exercises 2

For more information on the basics of the stress-timed nature of English, please refer to:

Intonation and Stress: Key to Understanding

This feature takes a look at how intonation and stress influence the way English is spoken.

How to Improve Your Pronunciation

This "how to" focuses on improving your pronunciation through the recognition of the "time-
stressed" character of English.

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Kenneth Beare
ESL Guide

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