Stress is an emphasis or articulatory prominence placed on a word (in a sentence) or a syllable (in a word). Hence, there are two types of stress placement:

  1. Syllabic stress
  2. Emphatic stress

Syllabic stress is the pronunciation emphasis or prominence placed on a syllable. That is, the vowel sound in such a syllable will sound louder, higher and longer than the other syllable(s) in the word.Emphatic stress, on the other hand, is the emphasis placed on a word in a sentence to show the focus of the speaker and what s/he wants his/her interlocutor to note.Syllabic StressThe addition of certain suffixes changes the stress placement on a word. For example, the word ‘comMUnicate’ is stressed on the second syllable. However, with the addition of suffix ‘-ion’, the stress placement changes from the second syllable to the fourth syllable as in: communiCAtion. Another example is ‘refuge’ which is stressed on the first syllable but with the addition of suffix ‘-e’, the stress placement moves to the last syllable, ‘refuGEE’:Here are three rules based on suffixes that can guide you:Rule One:If a word ends with the following suffixes stress the word on the penultimate syllable:-ion, -ic, ious, uous, eous, -ial,Examples:compreHENsion, associAtion, asymMEtric, alcoHOlic, cereMOnious, ignoMInious, inconsPIcuous, unamBIguous, advanTAgeous, MiscelLAneous, gubernaTOrial, consequentialRule Two:If a word ends with the suffixes/endings below stress the ante-penultimate syllable:-ate, -ty, -fy, -hy, -cy, -ny, -my, -ry, -ible, cal, -lar, -ouscomMUnicate, inAdequate, unCERtainty, maTERnity, eLECtrify, phoTOgraphy, preSIdency, aCRImony, acCESsory, compreHENsible, parTIcular, nuMErical, meTIculousRule Three:Here there is no stress shift from the syllable that carries the stress in the ‘original’ word or root word. What you do here is you remove the suffix and stress the word with it. Whatever syllable that has the stress maintains it even when you re-add the suffix. The suffixes are:-ment, -ize/-ise, -able, -ismExample:For example, the word ‘absolute’ bears the stress on the first syllable ‘AB so lute’. When the suffix ‘-ism’ is added, the first syllable still maintains its stress: ABsolutism.Other Examples:abSURD        abSURDismACtive            ActivismREAson         REAsonableaBOminate   aBOminableCRItic             CRIticiseaPOlogy        aPOlogiseacCOMplish acCOMplishmentenLIGHten    enLIGHtenmentNote: To some of the examples and rules are some exceptions. These exceptions are very few, hence, can be committed to memory.[Attributions and Licenses]


Stress is an extra force used when pronouncing a particular word or syllable.

1.When a word has two syllables,the first syllable is stressed

eg: Tea-cher => TEAcher

Mar-ket => MARket.

2. However,when the first syllable is a prefix,then the stress would be on the second syllable. Prefix is a letter or group of letters added to the begining of a word to change its meaning.
Prefix(s) like -‘un’, -‘pre’, -‘re’, -‘ex’, -‘be’, -‘con’…

Eg: unhappy => unHAPPY

preheat => preHEAT

extend => exTEND.

3. Shifting stress occurs in words that can function both as a noun and as a verb or adjective. For a noun,the stress lies in the first syllable and vice-versa for adjective and verbs.


import => IMport
record => REcord

For Adjectives and Verbs, the second syllable is stressed.

Eg: import => imPORT
record => reCORD.

Culled from 2002 Use of English (paper type C)

Question 58: In each of the questions 58 and 59, identify the word that has the stress on the first syllable.

A. export(noun)
B. commute
C. intend
D. import(verb)

Answer is A. export => EXport.


1. When words ends in -ic, -ion, -ing, -ous, -ial, or -ian, the stress falls on the second syllable counting from the end.
Eg: understanding => under-STAN-ing

dictatorial => dic-ta-T0-rial

dramatic => dra-MA-tic

enormous => e-NOR-mous
Notice the letters in capital? Thats the stress(counting from the end)

2. Words ending in -ity, -ate, -al, -ve are stressed in the 3rd syllable counting from the end.
Eg: fortunate => F0R-tu-nate

opportunity => op-por-TU-ni-ty

normative => NOR-ma-tive

3.For words ending with -noon, -tain, -bey, -come, -pose, -sine, stress the LAST syllable.
Eg: afternoon => after-NOON

understand => under-STAND

obey => o-BEY

entertain => enter-TAIN.

/eə/ Vowel SoundEmphatic Stress


Consonant SoundsRealising Sounds/b/ Consonant Sound/d/ Consonant Sound/g/ Consonant Sound/m/ Consonant Sound/n/ Consonant Sound/ŋ/ Consonant Sound/l/ Consonant Sound/r/ Consonant Sound/w/ Consonant Sound/j/ Consonant Sound/v/ Consonant Sound/dʒ/ Consonant Sound/ʒ/ Consonant Sound/ð/ Consonant Sound/z/ Consonant Sound/p/ Consonant Sound/t/ Consonant Sound/k/ Consonant Sound/f/ Consonant Sound/s/ Consonant Sound/h/ Consonant Sound/tʃ/ Consonant Sound/ʃ/ Consonant Sound/θ/ Consonant SoundVowel Sounds/i:/ Vowel Sound/ɪ/ Vowel Sound/e/ Vowel Sound/æ/ Vowel Sound/a:/ Vowel Sound/ᴐ:/ Vowel Sound/ɒ/ Vowel Sound/ʊ/ Vowel Sound/u:/ Vowel Sound/ɜ:/ Vowel Sound/ʌ/ Vowel Sound/ə/ Vowel Sound/eɪ/ Vowel Sound/aɪ/ Vowel Sound/ɔɪ/ Vowel Sound/əʊ/ Vowel Sound/aʊ/ Vowel Sound/ʊə/ Vowel Sound/ɪə/ Vowel Sound/eə/ Vowel SoundStressEmphatic Stress

This is a lesson from the tutorial, English Test of Orals and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress

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