You are probably wondering what kind of stress I’m talking about. Well, it’s not the type of stress that you think – it’s a linguistic term that people use when talking about the emphasis in a word.
I’m sharing this because the emphasis is prominent in the English language. When a word is stressed in the wrong place, the meaning could be altered.
For example, the word record /RE–kerd/ is a noun and record /re-KORD/ is a verb. If a person says this out loud, “He records /RE–kerd/ a voice message to his friend”. The emphasis of record in this sentence is in the beginning, which means the word is actually a noun but they are saying it as a verb. This is a problem, and you need to understand how to determine the differences.
Well, first of all, there are two very simple rules about word stress:
1. One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. If you hear two stresses, you hear two words. Two stresses cannot be one word. It is true that there can be a “secondary” stress in some words. But a secondary stress is much smaller than the main [primary] stress and is only used in long words.)
We can only stress vowels, not consonants.
Here are some more, rather complicated, rules that can help you understand where to put the stress. But do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is better to try to “feel” the music of the language and to add the stress naturally.
A. Stress on first syllable
Most 2-syllable nouns
Most 2-syllable adjectives
B. Stress on last syllable
Most 2-syllable verbs
Remember: There are many two-syllable words in English whose meaning and class change with a change in stress. The word present, for example, is a two-syllable word. If we stress the first syllable, it is a noun (gift) or an adjective (opposite of absent). But if we stress the second syllable, it becomes a verb (to offer). More examples: the words contract, export, object, and import can all be nouns or verbs depending on whether the stress is on the first or second syllable.
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