WORD STRESS & INTONATION in English- Improve your English pronunciation

Today’s topic is “word stress”. We are already so stressed with the traffic, our jobs and assignments and now even words want to stress us. Stay with me Michelle in this lesson to ease yourself of word stress.

Let’s count the number of syllables for some words:

(In some cases it’s enough to count vowels in others we need to count the number of vowel sounds.)

The number of syllables:

  • Japanese-3
  • Dance-1
  • Lonely -2
  • Education-4
  • Joyful-2

Many languages have regular stress patterns or fixed stress.
For example: In Finnish or Icelandic almost all almost all words are stressed at the first syllable. In Swahili one before the last syllable is almost always stressed.

Unfortunately for learners of English it’s not true. There are lots of rules but many exceptions also. So we won’t learn too many rules but just a few because that will help us understand word stress.

Word Stress Rules

*Rule 1: For most two syllable adjective and noun the stress is on the first syllable.

SCA-ry Lion

PAIN-ted Berries

*Rule 2: For most two syllable verbs the stress is on the second syllable.



*Rule 3: For words ending in “tion” the stress is always on the penultimate syllable i.e. the syllable before “tion”

  • Edu-ca-TION
  • Sta-TION
  • De-di-ca-TION
  • Ir-ri-ta-TION

Rule 4: Let’s look at some words that can change meaning, form and pronunciation depending on the word stress:


REcord     reCORD

REbel        reBEL

CONduct  conDUCT

CONtent   content


Noun: to set down or register information
Verb: to record something- audio/video


Noun: a person who refuses to obey
Verb: to reject/ resist


Noun: personal behaviour
Verb: to lead or guide


Noun: usually something that is contained
Verb: to make content (satisfied)

Ending: You can use word stress rules for learning word stress however for other words you need to practice word stress. Remember, it’s very difficult to understand for the listener if the word is stressed wrongly.  Therefore word stress is important. Here’s a tip for you to master word stress: Make sure you check the stress for every new word you learn in the dictionary.

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