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Session 4

It's often difficult with long words in English to know which syllable is stressed. Tim answers a question on this topic and gives some tips and advice for learning the stress patterns of certain suffixes.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Stop Saying!

Stress in long words

In any word with more than one syllable, one syllable will be 'stressed'. This means it is pronounced in a stronger way than the other syllable or syllables in the word. When a word has three, four or even more syllables it can be difficult to work out where the stress goes. Tim has some advice on this topic in this video.

 

Watch the video and complete the activity

Summary

If you're not sure where the stress comes in a word, the best thing to do is to check in a dictionary. In the sound transcription of the word you will see the symbol ' before the stressed syllable. 

When writing down new words it's a good idea to make a record of the stress pattern as well. You can use sound transcription or other methods, such as writing the stressed syllable in a different colour, or in capital letters.

There are some general rules for stress, particularly with certain suffixes.

Many common two syllable nouns and adjectives have stress on the first syllable:

  • WAter
  • FINGer
  • PEOple
  • UGly

Generally prefixes and suffixes aren't stressed in English. However, the following suffixes are stressed:

  • -ee => employEE, payEE, 
  • -ese => BurmESE, VietnamESE
  • -eer => enginEER, voluntEER

If a word has the following suffixes, the stress is usually on the syllable before the syllable with the suffix, no matter what the stress of the base word is.

  • -ive => deCIsive, exCLUsive
  • -ity => disaBIlity, QUALity
  • -graphy => phoTOGraphy, geOGraphy
  • -logy => techNOlogy, geOlogy
  • -ious/-eous => PREcious, simulTAneous

The same is also true for the following suffixes:

  • -ient, -iant, -ial, -ion, -ic, -ian, -ical, -iate, -iary, -iable, -ish, -ify, -ium, -ior, -io, -iar, -ible

To do

Using your knowledge, this page and/or a dictionary, see if you can get the right stress.

 

Choose the right stress

5 Questions

For each word choose the correct stress pattern from the options. The stressed syllable is shown in capital letters.

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Many thanks to the staff and students of Rose of York Language School for their help with this feature.

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Session Vocabulary

  • Some basic guides

    Many common two syllable nouns and adjectives have stress on the first syllable:

    • WAter
    • FINGer
    • PEOple
    • UGly

    Generally prefixes and suffixes aren't stressed in English. However, the following suffixes are stressed:

    • -ee => employEE, payEE, 
    • -ese => BurmESE, VietnamESE
    • -eer => enginEER, voluntEER

    If a word has the following suffixes, the stress is usually on the syllable before the syllable with the suffix, no matter what the stress of the base word is.

    • -ive => deCIsive, exCLUsive
    • -ity => disaBIlity, QUALity
    • -graphy => phoTOGraphy, geOGraphy
    • -logy => techNOlogy, geOlogy
    • -ious/-eous => PREcious, simulTAneous

    The same is also true for the following suffixes:

    • -ient, -iant, -ial, -ion, -ic, -ian, -ical, -iate, -iary, -iable, -ish, -ify, -ium, -ior, -io, -iar, -ible