Episode 1: Greetings


Word Stress


First, to understand stress in words, you have to understand syllables. A syllable is a unit of speech that equals one sound in a word. For example, in the word happy, there are 2 syllables: happ- and -y.

How many syllables are in these words? Listen to check your guesses.

  1. great
  2. amazing
  3. beautiful
  4. overwhelming
  5. aquarium
  1. great (1)
  2. a-ma-zing (3)
  3. beau-ti-ful (3)
  4. o-ver-whel-ming (4)
  5. a-qua-ri-um (4)



In each word, there is one syllable that we say louder, longer and with higher pitch than others. That syllable is stressed.

If you don’t say the stressed word correctly, it can be hard for a fluent speaker of English to understand you. In my podcast lessons, I show stress through bold capital letters.

For example, in the word, happy, we say happ- with stress: HAPP-y. Listen below.


Practice: Which syllable do you think is stressed? Guess the answers by saying the words aloud.

  1. amazing
  2. beautiful
  3. overwhelming
  4. aquarium
  5. recommendation
  1. aMAzing
  2. BEAUtiful
  3. overWHELming
  4. aQUArium
  5. recommenDAtion


Remember that you can always check the dictionary for syllables and stress. In most dictionaries, they show the number of syllables with dashes or periods, and they show the stressed syllable by putting a marker (ˈ) in front of it.

For example, in amazing, there are two dashes for 3 syllables, there is a marker in front of to show that ma is the stressed syllable:  ə-ˈmā-ziŋ   (Merriam-Webster).

Words with many syllables can also have secondary stress. In these words, the syllable that is stressed the most is the one with primary stress, and the other syllable that is stressed a little is the one with secondary stress.

For example, in the online Cambridge dictionary, accidentally looks like this: /ˌæk.səˈden.t̬əl.i/. There are 5 syllables marked by the periods and stress markers. The primary stress marker (ˈ) is in front of den because that syllable receives the most stress, and there is a marker (ˌ) in front of ac because it receives secondary stress.