In English, we do not pronounce each syllable with the same force. In each word, we stress ONE syllable, which means we say it “louder” than the rest of the word, so each word has a different “shape”. Knowing the shape of each word is important to improve both our speaking and comprehension skills.
Here you have some rules you can apply:
|In nouns and adjectives coming from one-syllable word, the stress usually stays on the syllable of the original word||
|In verbs coming from one-syllable word, the stress usually stays on the syllable of the original word.||
|Some two-syllable words are both nous and verbs. If the word is a noun, the stress is usually on the first syllable. If the word is a verb, the stress is usually on the second||
|In most compound nous, the stress is on the first part||
|In words in which we have added suffixes or prefixes, the stress usually stays on the same syllable as in the original word.
However, the prefix or suffix sometimes change the stress. For example, when we add -ian, the stress moves to the syllable before
As it happens with the syllables in words, not all the words in a sentence are given the same “importance” in terms of stress. Some words are stressed and some others are not. The difference in stress results usually in differences in meaning.
In general, what we usually do is to stress the content words; that means verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs… And we keep unstressed the non-content words (articles, prepositions, etc)
However, there may be differences according to the message we want to give. For example, in case of an emergency, we’ll stress all the words in a sentence: Be careful!
As it happens with word stress, mastering sentence stress is important if we want to sound native-like, so start focusing on it!