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Syllable Stress

by Heather Craig

What is a Syllable?

A syllable is unit of sound made from a single vowel, or single vowel/consonant combination - note that syllables never have more then one vowel sound in them.
Eg: bit; a; un; as; dog; re; ist; bi
Monosyllable / monosyllabic - words with one syllable
Disyllable / disyllabic - words with two syllables, also called bisyllablic by some
Trisyllable / trisyllabic - words with three syllables
Polysyllable / polysyllabic - words with four or more syllables, however often people will refer to word with three or more syllables as polysyllabic.

Feeling the Beat
The easiest way to determine how many syllables are in a particular word is to sound it out - or even better clap it out. Clap along while you try the following words:

Monosyllabic: dog there bike he walk bounce
Dysyllabic: doc/tor Fri/day o/ver yel/low chick/en

Trisyllabic: hos/pit/al yes/ter/day de/tec/tive am/bi/ence
Polysyllabic: un/wa/ver/ing no/tif/ica/tion re/an/i/ma/tion pri/va/ti/zation

Syllable Stress:
Syllables break our words up into sections which can be stressed, or unstressed. Which syllable is stressed, alters the pronunciation of the word. Try saying the following words aloud while stressing the first syllable:

doc/tor Fri/day o/ver mis/take pur/ple

Now try it again putting the stress on the second syllable.

doc/tor Fri/day o/ver mis/take pur/ple

Which one sounds better? If you thought the fist set sounded better you are correct. All of the above words should have their first syllable stressed.

Here are some more examples. The bold O will show you which syllable should be stressed in each word:

monosyllabic O: bike cat black

disyllabic O o: prob/lem en/gine yel/low

disyllabic o O: be/side di/vide un/do

trisyllablic O o o: dif/fi/cult hos/pit/al of/fi/cer

triyllablic o O o: de/tec/tive pro/fess/or re/dun/dant

Want More Practice?

Check out the worksheet PDF attached to this page, you can download and print the worksheet. Once you've filled it in, compare your answered to the answer key at the bottom of the page.

22 Comments
    nna10
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    nna10Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:12:16 -0000

    pcan you plsz me to divide and found the primary stress of the following words
    1.Philipines
    2.category
    3.honorable
    4.country
    5.friendlines
    plsz i need the amswer immediatly
    thank you

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    jgcrisme
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    jgcrismeThu, 12 Jun 2014 12:39:40 -0000

    can i have a question?? can you please give me some examples of syllable with stress?? thankyou

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    vicki val
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    vicki valSun, 26 Jan 2014 11:19:17 -0000

    pls help m
    e out :divide the following words into syllables and show where the primary stress is
    1-revisionism
    2-ritalization
    3-conversational
    4-generation
    5-indispensable

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    zhanaly
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    zhanalyTue, 18 Jun 2013 00:33:04 -0000

    pls .. help me ! pls give me a stress in english with example ..

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    aala
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    aalaWed, 31 Jul 2013 10:52:23 -0000

    pls help me too this is for my exam tomorrow august 1 2013 pls

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    tcarenas
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    tcarenasSun, 09 Jun 2013 05:49:56 -0000

    give me 10 examples of trisyllabic having stress words…

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    taris
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    tarisTue, 30 Apr 2013 15:57:15 -0000

    please help me out with this: give out five (5) trisyllabic words each from these ake and ate , than you.

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    rgoody-boil_bolt_ bus-merich
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    rgoody-boil_bolt_ bus-merichSat, 27 Apr 2013 13:46:49 -0000

    Why is 'kw' sound which are pronounced in many English words not represented in the phonetic symbols?

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    RemyaRajmohan
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    RemyaRajmohanTue, 02 Oct 2012 15:52:48 -0000

    thank you very much…….to teaching…me about syllables……..ok……..see u again………

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    Ahrar Sabbu
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    Ahrar AlamSat, 30 Jun 2012 20:52:15 -0000

    Hello,
    Is there some special rules on stressing of a syllable? or only practice we have to do.if so, can it be done on all words which exist in dictionaries?

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    cat cat cat
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    cat cat catSun, 13 May 2012 11:25:57 -0000

    what is the stress in the word

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    jgreen harppie
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    jgreen harppieWed, 15 Feb 2012 08:53:35 -0000

    I need to know more about d rule of the stress placement

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    miya-sweet-miya
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    miya-sweet-miyaWed, 25 Jan 2012 22:21:40 -0000

    i'm so confused and i can't understand stress very well i need mor explanation obout it please thanx a lot

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    Ramanjaneyulu Goud
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    Ramanjaneyulu GoudTue, 15 Nov 2011 16:53:07 -0000

    i want some examples for 44 phonetic symbols of monosyullabic, disyllabic, trisyllabic and polysyllabic.

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    Daddylecturer
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    DaddylecturerTue, 15 Feb 2011 19:31:48 -0000

    I want to know the rules of stress

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    Daddylecturer
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    DaddylecturerTue, 15 Feb 2011 19:00:15 -0000

    I want to know the rules of stress

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    tdorjee
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    tdorjeeThu, 09 Dec 2010 16:11:44 -0000

    Simple rules of syllables which will help you to pronunce properly.

    1)We should never stress on Consonant sounds
    2)One syllable word cannot be divided
    3)In one word there is only one primary stress
    4)In two syllable words the rule which applies to most words are:
    REcord=Noun ReCORD=Verb
    ADDress=Noun AddRESS=Verb
    5)In Compound Nouns we stress on the first word :
    WHITE house, BOOK shelf
    6)In Compound Adjectives we stress on the second word:
    Old-FASHIONED ,Bad TEMPERED
    I hope this might help.Thanks

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    keninlima
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    keninlimaThu, 21 Oct 2010 13:17:14 -0000

    Not to split hairs, but is this British English? I say this because the words in the first set are stressed on the first syllable EXCEPT -mistake. In American English, the stress is on the second syllable. Thanks

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    ritca
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    kannu gargTue, 16 Jun 2009 11:09:03 -0000

    THANKS FOR TEACHING ME ABOUT SYLLABLE.

    KANNU

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    acrosstheuniverse
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    KristaThu, 07 Aug 2008 20:13:39 -0000

    Hi Pradeep,

    I'll try to explain what a diphthong is as best as I can! It has to do with phonetics and how the words sound when they are pronounced. A diphthong comes about when there are two vowels together, creating a certain sound. Words such as eye, boy, my, weigh and say, all have a diphthong where the vowels are found together. You'll find when saying these words that the"ey" goes up in tone as you say it. The diphthong usually sounds high in pitch and scoops up in your voice going from a low ee to a high eii type sound.

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    Pradeep
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    Pradeep YadavMon, 02 Jun 2008 21:51:27 -0000

    This was good to know What exactly are "Diphthongs". Thanks

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    hcraig
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    Heather CraigWed, 28 May 2008 19:36:37 -0000

    Words like that fall under the category of "diphthongs" - two vowels combined in pronunciation, together forming a single, long syllable. To put it bluntly, they don't "count" as separate vowels because they aren't pure (or separately pronounced) vowels.

    That's the super short explanation. You can check out the longer explanation - complete with an explanation of Monophthong (or pure vowels) and Triphthong on Wikipedia

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    oLahav
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    Oren LahavWed, 28 May 2008 18:27:02 -0000

    That's a great lesson… but I've got a question. I never really understood this one:

    If syllables never have more than one vowel in them, are words like "tour" or "soap" monosyllabic or disyllabic? It's too confusing… They sound like one syllable but they have 2 vowels… so what are they?

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    catokem
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    catokemMon, 17 Jun 2013 10:29:43 -0000

    If syllables never have more than one vowel in them, words like 'tour' or 'soap', they are monosyllabic because whenever two vowels are placed together (diphthong), the vowels are regarded as one. Hence, the words 'tour' and 'soap' have one vowel sound each.

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Last Updated At Jun 18, 2013
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