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Sentence Stress Rules in the English Language


									English Pronunciation: Sentence Stress Rules (

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English Club : ESL Learning Centre : English Pronunciation : Sentence Stress


Rules for Sentence Stress in English
The basic rules of sentence stress are: 1. 2. 3. content words are stressed structure words are unstressed the time between stressed words is always the same

The following tables can help you decide which words are content words and which words are structure words:

Content words - stressed
Words carrying the meaning main verbs nouns adjectives adverbs negative auxiliaries Example SELL, GIVE, EMPLOY CAR, MUSIC, MARY RED, BIG, INTERESTING QUICKLY, LOUDLY, NEVER DON'T, AREN'T, CAN'T

Structure words - unstressed
Words for correct grammar pronouns prepositions articles conjunctions auxiliary verbs Example he, we, they on, at, into a, an, the and, but, because do, be, have, can, must

The above rules are for for what is called "neutral" or normal stress. But sometimes we can stress a word that would norm structure word, for example to correct information. Look at the following dialogue: "They've been to Mongolia, haven't they?" "No, THEY haven't, but WE have. Note also that when "be" is used as a main verb, it is usually unstressed (even though in this case it is a content word).


English Pronunciation: Sentence Stress Rules (

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