Sentence Stress and Rhythm

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When we learn a language, it is important for us not only to know the words and grammar of a language, but it is equally important for us to know the music, or the rhythm as well.

Every language has its own music.  Some languages have a strong rhythm, and some have a soft rhythm. If we don’t know the rhythm, people may have difficulty understanding what we say.

When we talk about the music, or the rhythm of the language, we are referring to the stress we give certain words. Generally speaking, we stress content words and we don’t stress what we call function words.

By content words we mean words like nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, modals, quantifiers, questions words, and negative words.  And of course, function words are those small words like articles, auxiliary verbs, pronouns, possessive and demonstrative adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions. 

Sentence Stress Exercise

Directions: Listen to the sentences in the video and underline the stressed words. You can download the file below.

  1. I am planning to go to Hawaii.
  2. The professor gave us a hard assignment.
  3. The teacher will be late.
  4. She bought a new dress.
  5. It’s difficult to understand.
  6. Your ride will be here shortly.
  7. Do you like the picture I took?
  8. Why does she think math is hard?
  9. What time does the class begin?
  10. 10.Will he finish his report by tomorrow afternoon?

Richard Carrigan, MSE

Richard Carrigan has been an educator for over 30 years and a filmmaker for the past ten years. He has experience teaching English as a Second Language in Asia and teaching university students in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Loma Linda University and his graduate degree from Shenandoah University.