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Susan M Ryan

In spoken English every word has one syllable that receives strong emphasis. We say that these syllables have major stress. Syllables with major stress are pronounced louder and with a higher pitch than the other syllables in a word. The vowel sounds in stressed syllables are long and clear.

English syllable stress may seem random at first, but as you listen to Americans speak you will see that it follows some predictable patterns. One strategy you can use to predict which syllables receive major stress is to use suffix-based patterns. I will describe three of these suffix based patterns in this article. The syllables with major stress are CAPITALIZED.

Pattern #1 Stress the Suffix

In some words the major stress will fall on the suffix itself. This is often true when a suffix of French origin is added to English words. Here are some examples:

enginEER
boutiQUE
picturESQUE
chaufFUER
vaLET
VietnamESE
refuGEE

Pattern # 2 Stress the Syllable Directly Before the Suffix

In many English words major stress falls on the syllable just before the suffix. This pattern works with the suffixes; graphy, tion, ial, ity, & ogy.

phoTOgraphy
eduCAtion
meMORial
curIOSity
biOLogy

Pattern #3 Stress the Second Syllable Before the Suffix

In verbs ending with the suffix "ate" the second syllable before the suffix receives the major stress. Here are a few examples:

GRADuate
apPREciate
comMUNicate
arTIculate

I teach many syllable stress patterns in my American English pronunciation courses because it helps my students improve the rhythm of their speech. If you want to reduce your accent and speak English like an American you must use syllable stress correctly!

Susan Ryan is an American English pronunciation and accent reduction teacher in Washington, D.C. Visit her website at Accent Redcution Classroom to read more articles like this and to find out about her online courses that will help you improve your American accent http://accentreductionclassroom.com/.

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