Welcome to Daily Tips on Learning English. Today’s tip is on word stress on sentences.
In general, it is true that content words are stressed whereas function words are not stressed. Content words usually convey the meaning of the sentence. Function words make the sentence grammatically correct. Content words are: nouns, main verbs, adjectives, adverbs, this, that, these, those, and “wh-“ words, who, what, when, why, how, which. Function words are: articles, such as “a” and “the”; possessive adjectives, such as “his”, “my”, “your”; prepositions, such as “in”, “on”, “of”; conjunctions, such as “and”, “but”; personal pronouns, such as “ I”, “he”, “she”; the “be” verb, “am”, “is”, “are”, “was”, “were”; and auxiliaries, such as “do”, “does”, “did”.
Take for example the sentence “Andrew brushes his teeth every morning.” The content word alone can convey the meaning of the sentence, namely “Andrew brushes teeth every morning.” The functional word “his” only makes the sentence grammatically correct. So “his” is unstressed, the other words are stressed. Why isn’t “his” stressed? Because of course he brushes his teeth, not your teeth, or my teeth. This we would naturally assume. If, however, Andrew brushes someone else’s teeth beside his own, then it would be very important to let your listener know that by stressing whose teeth he brushes.
So, what words should be stressed? The simple answer is whatever words are important to the meaning you are trying to convey. if someone write the sentence on the board out of context and asks, “Which words are important? Which words should you stress?” You should answer, “That depends on the context.” Stress is used to let your listener know what is important to your message. If you stress words properly, your listener will have an easy time understanding your message. If you stress every word equally, then your listener will have to listen very carefully and try to guess the main point of your message. If your stress the wrong words, the listener will misunderstand your message or just feel very confused. So remember to stress the important words to your massage.
This has been today’s daily tip. Tune in tomorrow for another tip on learning English.