English is a Stress Timed Language!

What does that even mean? Even the word ‘stress’ can be confusing.

All English words are made up of different syllables. And what is a syllable you might ask? A syllable is the vowel sound in a word and not the number of vowels in a word. We only count these vowel sounds and not the consonant sounds. 

The word heart /hɑː(r)t/ has only 1 syllable, even though it has two vowels. We do not count the ‘t’ sound because this is a consonant sound. 

So, for example the word happyhap + py = 2 syllables (because the ‘y’ sounds like an ‘e’). This is the case for every single English word.  

The reason we call English a stress timed language is because only ONE SYLLABLE in a word can be emphasised (stressed).  

When we look at the word important /ɪmˈpɔːtənt/ and if you say it slowly you will notice that it has 3 syllables, but only one is stressed. In this case it is POR. So, the word is pronounced – imPORtant. The other two syllables are spoken softly. 

Here are a list words to practice:

Word and Stressed Syllable:

Number of Syllables:

Difficult – DIFFicult  – /ˈdɪfɪkəlt/


Forget – forGET /fəˈgɛt/ 


Brazil – braZIL/brəˈzɪl/


Because – beCAUSE –  /bɪˈkɒz/


Adventure – adVENture – ədˈvɛnʧər ˌ


Company – COMpany –  /ˈkʌmpəni/


Information – inforMAtion – /ɪnfəˈmeɪʃən/


By stressing the correct syllable in a word, it will transform the way you speak English and increase your English fluency and intonation. 

I’ve added a recording of the pronunciation of these words so you can improve your English fluency.  

Posted on June 8th, 2021 by Joanne Hayden