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In English we come across monosyllabic words - words having a single syllable (e.g: go, eat, say, right), disyllabic words - words having two syllables (e.g: away, table, pencil, English), and polysyllabic words - words having three or more than three syllables (e.g: examination, conversation, simulataneous). I speech, some syllables are uttered with greater foce than others. That is, one syllable in that word gets this extra force calles stress. We mark this stress in front of the stressed syllable thus: - away, important.

1. Monosyllabic words with one one syllable are stressed. (but normally they do not carry stress marks in dictionaries because the stress is on the one and the same syllable).

  • e.g: farm, struck, saw, floor, reach, work, lose.
2. Disyllabic words may have the stress on the first syllable or on the second syllable.
  • Stress on the first syllable :
    visit, city, recent, knowledge, solar.
  • Stress on the second syllable :
    today, awake, around, report, demand, support.
3. Polysyllabic words gave the stress on any one of the syllables
  • Stress on the first syllable :
    popular, telegram, atmosphere, mechanism, grandfather.
  • Stress on second syllable :
    involvement, laboratory, arrangement, experiment, interpreet.
  • Stress on the third syllable :
    availability, communication, understand, integration.
4. Some polysyllabic words may have two stress marks. The one which is more forcible is called Primary Stress and it is marked by []. The other stress is less forcible. It is called Secondary Stress and it is marked by [,].
  • e.g: ex,amination - ,civilization - res,ponsibility.
5. Some nouns have stress on the first syllable. But the stress shifts to the second syllable when the same word is used as a verb.
NounVerb NounVerb
6.The stress pattern may vary when a root word is used in different parts of speech.
  Thus we say - democracy. But the stress changes to the third syllable in - democratic.
  politics - political; photography - photograph.

Stress on different syllables

Stress on the first syllable
rally stubborn handicap fatal
residence popular bargain notion
privilege kidnap creature boundary
Stress on the second syllable
machine important tomorrow appoint
today depart awake companion
alive police reject defend
Stress on the third syllable
fragmentation intellectual orthopaedic
participate limitation methodology
generosity insincere insignificant


(1) Words which give us information (conditional words) are usually marked. They include nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

(2) Grammatical words (structural words) are not generally stressed. They include auxiliary verbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and articles.

(3) In connected speech the stress falls on those words which the speaker intends to emphasize.
I hate cats. (but I like dogs)
I hate cats. (I insist on my emotions)
I hate cats. (but my brother likes them)



A speaker cannot utter a long sentence in one breath. H utters groups of words in one breath, he stops and then utters another group. The place where he stops or pauses is marked by a slant mark []. The pause may be used.

  • at the end of a short sentence
    e.g: I am hungry
  • at the end of a phrase
    e.g: In spite of his being poor ...
  • at the end of a clause
    e.g: Unless you do your homework ...
Some guidelines: Pauses an be marked

Nore: Pauses are marked by a sinngle slash []. But at the end of sentence we use double slashed [] to show a longer pause.
  • After a word when we leave a gap before uttering another word or at the end of a short sentence.
    Henry, what are you doing?
  • After a subordinate clause and after a main clause
    If you get the first rank I’ll give you a prize.
  • Before a conjunction
    Do it now or you will regret later.
    You are intelligent but you are not honest.
    They stopped the car and attacked the inmates.
  • Before a question tag
    She writes beautifully, doesn’t she?
    You don’t know my parents, do you?
  • At the end of quotation marks
    “Joe!” she shouted at her husband, “the truck is on fire!”
    “Oh, one of the largest in Europe,” said Harris.
  • At the end of a comma
    “Hardly that, Senior General,” said our friend.
    I came, I saw, I conquered.


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