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What about word stress?

Another important part of how a word is said is its stress.

Stress means the part of the word that we emphasise when we say it. This means it is usually longer and louder than the other parts of the word.

Parts of words are called syllables. Not every syllable in an English word is said with the same emphasis.

The word ‘independent’ can be split into four syllables like this:

/In/   /dI/  /pen/  /dənt/

We can check the phonemic transcription in a dictionary to show us where we should stress each part. Look at the phonemic transcription from a dictionary below:

/I n d I p e n d ə n t/

Listen to how this is pronounced:


Now listen to the following two examples, where the primary stress is placed on the wrong syllables:



Can you hear the difference between them?

Primary stress is the syllable with the most emphasis in a word. Secondary stress means the syllable also has emphasis but not as strongly as the syllable with primary stress.

Your task

Look at the words below and think where the primary stress should be. Say the words out loud and try to think where you are putting most emphasis.

  1. Reflection
  2. Lecture
  3. Genre
  4. Independence
  5. Autonomous

You can download the answers from the downloads section below.

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This article is from the free online course:

English for Academic Study

Coventry University