Lesson 13 – Stress rules in a sentence


Listening is how you improve. Listen to and imitate the following story. Pause the video after each sentence if you need to.

Go through the video again and note which words are stressed.



How many syllables do these words have? What is the primary and secondary stress? You can look them up in an online dictionary like Dictionary.com. Choose “Show IPA” for the pronunciation.

  • take after
  • unverifiable
  • advertisement
  • obligatory
  • vocabulary
  • changed
  • everywhere
  • furthermore
  • Portuguese
  • materialistic
  • horizontal
  • standardized
  • drive

Poem rhythm

Read Sea Fever again using the marked words as the stress rhythm:


Sea Fever
John Masefield (1874-1967)

I ˈmust go down to the ˈseas again, to the ˈlonely sea and the ˈsky,
And ˈall I ask is a ˈtall ship and a ˈstar to steer her ˈby,
And the ˈwheel’s kick and the ˈwind’s song and the ˈwhite sail’s ˈshaking,
And a ˈgray mist on the ˈsea’s face, and a ˈgray dawn ˈbreaking.

I ˈmust go down to the ˈseas again, for the ˈcall of the running ˈtide
Is a ˈwild call and a ˈclear call that ˈmay not be deˈnied;
And ˈall I ask is a ˈwindy day with the ˈwhite clouds ˈflying,
And the ˈflung spray and the ˈblown spume, and the ˈsea-gulls ˈcrying.

I ˈmust go down to the ˈseas again, to the ˈvagrant gypsy ˈlife,
To the ˈgull’s way and the ˈwhale’s way, where the ˈwind’s like a whetted ˈknife;
And ˈall I ask is a ˈmerry yarn from a ˈlaughing fellow-ˈrover,
And ˈquiet sleep and a ˈsweet dream when the ˈlong trick’s ˈover.


This recording emphasizes the rhythm slightly more than a natural reading would.

Stressed and unstressed words

Listen to which words are stressed in the following sentence:

I’m going to the store in a week.

Stressed words

The following types of words are usually stressed in a sentence:

Nouns chair, dog, house
Verbs run, love, go, eat
Adjectives tall, green, beautiful
Numbers four, eighty-seven, first
Adverbs quickly, not, very
Wh- question words who, what, when, how
Some pronouns this, that, these, those, myself, himself
Single words Yes, No, Hi, Oh, Hey, Wow

You could summarize most of these words as meaning words.

Unstressed words

These words are usually unstressed in a sentence:

Articles a, an, the
Pronouns he, she, they, his, her, my, that, whose
Helping verbs be, have, do, can, may
Conjunctions and, or, but, if, than, while
Propositions to, in, on, for, with, from



I am going to my home.

Peter jumped on the chair.

The red car is very small and very fast.

How do you get to the bank?


I want a new book.

She can give him the money.

When do you eat lunch?

It’s small but it isn’t cheap.

That fish swam quickly through the water.

The man who is wearing the green hat looked at me.

More practice

(Taken from Manual of American English Pronunciation p. 33)


I don’t imagine you can succeed in a business venture.

In an hour it will be ready to turn over to you.

This red rose is to be planted here.

He eats three full meals each day.

I shall deliver it to you.

She says that she likes the apartment, doesn’t she?

Breaking the stress rules

For better rhythm

That ‘fish swam ‘quickly through the ‘water.
I’ll get ‘fruit and ‘vegetables.
‘Mike wants to eat ‘pizza.

For comparison or contradiction

‘He wants ‘two, but ‘I want ‘three.
‘How about ‘you?
It’s not ‘on the table. It’s ‘under the table.

General rule: Stress the important words that express your meaning

‘Oh, so ‘that’s why he was ‘crying.
‘What are ‘you doing here?
Are you going to call Tom now?
My red shirt is on the table.


IPA doubles dictation: Get 90% or more on the app with 50 sounds

Mark the stressed words in the following sentences according to the stress rules:

Is that the boy?
The books can be put on the table.
She likes to play volleyball on Tuesdays.
The old green car and the new blue car are not to be sold.
Ask Susan to pick up the letter from the post office.
Run quickly!
Be careful on the ice so that you don’t fall down.
Take two eggs from the chicken house and put them in the refrigerator.
Is father coming home to eat with us?
Those are the children who helped me find my glasses.
Do you know how to do it?
Pronunciation is not always easy for everyone.
Where can you take it to?
I’m buying my ticket now.
Do you know that you won’t go?

Write the following story in IPA, marking the stressed words:

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