Episode 2: Small Talk


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Word Stress

Two-Syllable Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs & Prepositions

To understand stress in words, you have to understand syllables. A syllable is a unit of speech that equals one sound in a word. In each word, there is one syllable that we say louder, longer and with higher pitch than others. We say that syllable is stressed.

If you don’t say the stress correctly, it can be hard for a fluent speaker of English to understand you.

For example, the word picture has 2 syllables, and we say pic- with stress: PICture. Say the word. Do you hear the stress?

Nouns & Adjectives

For most two-syllable nouns, the first syllable is stressed. For example, WO-man. And for most two-syllable adjectives, the first syllable is also stressed. For example, CLEV-er.

Verbs & Prepositions

However, for most two-syllable verbs, the second syllable is stressed. For example, be-GIN. And for most two-syllable prepositions, the second syllable is also stressed. For example, be-TWEEN.

Note that this rule is NOT for all two-syllable nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

If you’re not sure, check a dictionary. In most dictionaries, they show the number of syllables with dashes or periods, they show primary stress by putting this marker (ˈ) in front of the syllable receiving the most stress, and they show secondary stress by putting this marker (ˌ) in front of the syllable receiving less stress.

For example, in table, there is one period to show there are 2 syllables, and there is a marker in front of ta to show that ta is the stressed syllable: /ˈteɪ.bəl / (Cambridge Dictionary).


Practice: Which syllable do you think is stressed? Listen, guess and then check your answers.

  1. relax
  2. minute
  3. weather
  4. delay
  5. until
  6. breezy
  7. expect
  8. morning
  9. trendy
  10. weekend
  1. re-LAX
  2. MIN-ute
  3. WEATH-er
  4. de-LAY
  5. un-TIL
  6. BREE-zy
  7. ex-PECT
  8. MOR-ning
  9. TREN-dy
  10. WEEK-end