A monthly grammatical guide to help you build your English skills.

Learn These 4 Word Stress Rules to Improve Your Pronunciation

Sep 8, 2015

To communicate clearly when you are speaking in English, it’s important to stress the correct syllables in each word. This is called word stress, which means pronouncing one syllable of a multisyllabic word with greater emphasis (stress) than the other syllables in the word. Here are four general rules to keep in mind about word stress as you practice pronunciation:

  1. Stress the first syllable of:
    • Most two-syllable nouns (examples: CLImate, KNOWledge)
    • Most two-syllable adjectives (examples: FLIPpant, SPAcious)
  2. Stress the last syllable of:
    • Most two-syllable verbs (examples: reQUIRE, deCIDE)
  3. Stress the second-to-last syllable of:
    • Words that end in -ic (examples: ecSTATic, geoGRAPHic)
    • Words ending in -sion and -tion (examples: exTENsion, retriBUtion)
  4. Stress the third-from-last syllable of:
    • Words that end in -cy, -ty, -phy and -gy (examples: deMOCracy, unCERtainty, geOGraphy, radiOLogy)
    • Words that end in -al (examples: exCEPtional, CRItical)

Keep these simple rules in mind and you will soon find your pronunciation getting better and better!

Look up academic terms in American English and hear them pronounced with the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.