Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Rhythm of English

This lesson accompanies the YouTube video "Rhythm Lesson for Accent Reduction" found at:                      

The repetition audio can be found at:


  1. English has stress-timed rhythm.  This means that there is about the same amount of time between each stress in a spoken phrase.  Other languages are syllable-timed.  This means that each syllable gets the same amount of time when it is spoken.


      syllable-timed stress-timed

  1. When you speak English without stress-timed rhythm, native-speaking listeners have to focus extra hard to concentrate on what you’re saying.  Native speakers have heard stress-timed rhythm since birth and depend on it.  Native speakers grow weary faster when they have to listen to English without stress-timed rhythm.  To hold your listening audience, you must practice stress-timed rhythm.

  1. To learn good English rhythm, we need to know what words get stress, how to make the stress and what to do with the words and syllables that don’t get stress.


Content Words

Loud Function Words

Soft Function Words





question words (what, what, when, why, where, how 

to be (is, are, am, were, was, been, being, etc.)


negatives (no, not, never, n’t)

prepositions (to, from, in, on, at, beside, etc)



articles (the, a, an)


pronouns (he, she, her, his, him, I, me, you, your, they, them, etc)

conjunctions (and, or, but, so, for, yet, nor than, as, because, if, since, while, before, etc)

modals (can, should, ought to, could, would, etc)

helping verbs (have, had, has, will, does, )


Stressed Words

Unstressed Words

1. stretched out, full vowel

1. quick, reduced vowel

2. louder

2. quieter

3. higher pitch

3. lower pitch

4. squeezed

4. Use a rubberband to practice saying the quote below.  Stretch the rubberband out when you say the syllables that have a O over them.  Repeat, this time clapping when you say the stressed syllables.

  O  ï       ï    ï   ï      O ï     ï     O  ï 

Nothing but Money is sweeter than Honey

5. Practice making stresses about the same distance apart from each other.  Make sure the words in capital letters are always the same distance apart from each other.  Clap when you say these words.  Your clapping should keep an even tempo, like a metronome.  The function words in between will have to be SQUEEZED between each clap.

CATS                 CHASE MICE.

The CATS                 CHASE the MICE.

The CATS will                 CHASE the MICE.

The CATS have been         CHASing the MICE.

The CATS could have been CHASing the MICE.

  1. Practice identifying words that get stress.  Put a O over the syllables that should be stressed and a ï over the syllables that should be unstressed.

I didn’t wash the car.

Her friends were from Alaska.

I think we should give her a job.

The police are searching for the girl’s murderer.

They learned about the class through word of mouth.

Are you looking for a new job or are you taking a break?

He works as an engineer for a company called Array Networks.

Once in a while, I give in to my appetite and eat a glazed donut with a cup of milk.

It’s better than going to work.

Her birthday was on Thursday.

We needed to call them at ten.

What Word do I Stress? (Primary Phrase Stress-PPS)

Primary Phrase Stress (PPS) is the loudest word in a phrase, or thought unit.

General Rule:   PPS falls on the last new content word in the phrase.   Content words consist of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  

    The match was between the TWO of them.   (Two is the last content word in this sentence, and it hasn't already been mentioned.)

My lessons on PPS will consist of Part I and II.  Find the videos here:  
Part I.    Part II (not ready yet.)  Both will include examples of the general rule as well as exceptions.   

example conversation:

Can I get a picture of you?
for a school project.
What's the subject of the project?
Biology.   We talk about snakes.
You're the snake.
You seriously can't take a joke.
You just wait.  I'll think of something good tomorrow.

Can I get a picture of you?  ("Picture" is the last content word.)
Why?  (There are no content words here, so stress the only function word.)
for a school project. ("Project" is the last new content word.  "School project" is not treated like a compound noun.)
What's the subject of the project?  (Project is old.  subject is the last new content word.)
Biology.   We talk about snakes.  ("Biology" is the only word in that thought unit, so stress it.)   ("Snakes" is the last new content word in the next unit.)
You're the snake.  ("Snake" is old information.  Also, there is a rule to stress explicit contrasts.  They are calling each other snakes!  To contrast between speakers, and who is accused of being a snake, "you're" is stressed.)
You seriously can't take a joke.  (We could stress "joke," as the last new content word, but we can also stress strong adjectives or adverbs.  Here, I chose to stress "seriously.")
You just wait.  I'll think of something good tomorrow.   Stress "wait" because it's the last new content word. Stress "good "because we don't include context-setting time adverbials, such as tomorrow, now, yet, again, as PPS.

Practice audio for this lesson found here:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Intonation Made Easy!

This lesson accompanies this YouTube video lesson.
Listen to this audio to practice the lesson.   Repeat after me in the blank spaces to develop your muscle memory.   Use this audio several times on different days.  Try recording yourself doing the audio so you can compare your intonation to mine.


Statements and WH ?’s have falling intonation.  Rise in pitch on the primary phrase stress, and fall after that syllable.  If the primary phrase stress is on the last syllable, then you must rise and fall in the same syllable.  Stretch out that syllable, so you can divide it into two parts.
  1. Let’s go to the library.
  1. Let’s go to the show.
  1. Where’s the library?
  1. Where’s the show?
Yes-no ?’s, introductory words, unfinished thoughts and the first items in a list have rising intonation.  You must fall in pitch on the primary phrase stress before you can rise!  If the PPS is on the last word, and the last word is only one syllable (or the word stress falls on the last syllable of that word,) divide that syllable into two parts, lowering in pitch on the first part and rising on the second part.

 Yes-NO ?'s:

1. Do you like it?

2. Is that a fact?  (fa ect)

3. Did you read the mail?   (may yul)

4.  Can you swim?  (swi im)

5.  Is she a movie star?

Introductory Words:

1.  Actually, I don’t like it.

2.  She lost her ticket.  Therefore, she can't ride.  

3.  She paid for it.  However, she can't find it.  

Unfinished Thoughts:

1. I was going to call my boss, but I decided not to.
2. I didn't want to hurt his feelings or get anyone in trouble.
3. Despite my poor decision, I hope he'll forgive me.  


1. I like carrots, broccoli, celery and corn.
2. Do you like carrots, broccoli, celery and corn?
3. Would you like coffee or tea?   (a choice questions, with only two items in the list.)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Rhythm Practice: Reducing Prepositions

This lesson accompanies the YouTube video found HERE.  It's important to reduce prepositions in sentences in order to achieve stressed-timed rhythm.  Practice the story below by imitating each sentence.  Speak out loud during the pauses in the recording.  Repeat exactly what your here.  Try to imitate the rhythm and everything about the sentence, including how fast and how loud each word is.  Copy how I connect the words together also.  Listen to the repetition audio here:

for = fur
to = tuh (t’) or duh (d’)
tuh after a consonant
duh after a vowel or voiced consonant
on = stays on!!
in = stays in!
of = uh (a) before a consonant but stays “of” before a vowel!
than = thun
at = et
as = ez

Remember, prepositions at the end of a sentence or phrase won’t reduce.  


I called for a taxi to go to the mall on Third St..  I got in the back of the car and told the driver where I wanted to go.  When the driver started to take a different route than the one I’m used to, I tapped him on the shoulder to ask him where he was going.  To my surprise, instead of answering me, the driver screamed, lost control of the car, hit the curb at high speed, and stopped 2 inches in front of a pedestrian.  As the taxi driver stared at the frightened pedestrian who cursed at us louder and longer than a machine gun, I feared for the driver, but the driver continued to the mall as though nothing had happened.  He calmly told me, “Don’t tap me on my shoulder anymore.  You scared the heck out of me.”   I apologized, for I hadn’t realized that a tap could scare him as much as it did.  The driver assured me it was more his fault than mine.  “Today’s my first day as a taxi driver.  I’ve been driving a funeral car for the last 25 years.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Future Perfect and Future Perfect Progressive Tenses: Grammar and Pronunciation

Find the YouTube Video here.     

           1. You’re a lot younger than me.  By the time you start college, I'll have graduated.

           2.  I’m working at the water station at the half way point.  By the time runners get to my station, they'll have been running for more than an hour, so they'll be very thirsty.

           3.  My friend already bought me ice cream, but I’m sitting in a traffic jam.  By the time I get there, the ice cream will've been sitting on the table for more than 10 minutes and it'll have melted.  I'll have to buy a new one.

           4.  After the long test, we should plan some exercise because we'll have been sitting for 3 hours.  Our legs'll be cramped.

          5.  I’m going to be late to the potluck party, so I'l bring dessert.  By the time I get there, everyone will've eaten dinner and should be ready for dessert.

          6.  He’s going trick-or-treating for 3 hours!   By the time he gets home, he'll have collected enough candy to last for 6 months!  He’ll probably be very hyper because he'll have been eating candy for those 3 hours.  We 'll have to throw away half of the candy!

          7.  Tomorrow morning we should be able to go skiing.  The blizzard will've stopped by then!

          8.  We can’t go skiing until the ski resort has made enough snow.  By this time next week, the resort will've had enough time to make ample snow.  The snow blowers'll need maintenance though.  They'll have been running them all week.

          9.  If you start a college savings account for your baby now, he 'll be so rich by the time he goes to college.   The money will've been sitting in the account for 18 years,  It'll have accumulated so much interest!

         10.  If you wait till next year to refinance your house, the interest rates will've risen.  Just do it now, while the rates are low.

         11.  I wouldn’t buy 6 pairs of the same shoe.  When you finally wear the 6th pair, your taste will've changed and you won't want them anymore.

         12.  We had better prepare dinner for Charlie.  He 'll be hungry when he arrives because he'll have been driving for 6 hours.

Monday, March 9, 2020

American English Rhythm Practice: Do and Can Reductions

Rhythm Practice : Do and Can reductions
Find the audio tracks below!

            Do = də (if helping verb)

1. How do you know?
2. Why do you have to take my picture?
3. Where do you think you’re sleeping? 
4. What do you do if you want to look silly?  (Ava and giselle)
5. Do you want to go to the movies?
6. Wanna go to the movies?  (“Do you” omitted)- informal 
7. Do they fly?  Yes, they DO. (end of utterance)

Can = kin or kən

1. I can wait.
2. Do you think he can reach it?
3. Do you know where I can get a new smile?
4. Can he stand up straight?
5. Exception:  end of utterance: “I think I CAN.”  “Do what you can.”
6. When do the kids get to decide who can take their picture and who can’t?

7. You can distort your photo or do whatever you can do to make yourself look more interesting because you can.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

American English Rhythm Practice: Blending

Here are the written and audio materials for the video lesson on American English Rhythm Practice: Blending.  Listen to me saying each sentence and repeat after me in the blank space provided.  You will say each sentence several times.  Each time, you should notice something new about how I say the sentence.   Even if I say the sentence exactly the same way, you will still notice something you didn't notice the first time.  Sometimes, I say the sentence slightly differently, perhaps faster or slower or with different intonation.  Try to improve your observation and imitation skills.  Notice everything about the sentence: my pitch, volume, consonants, vowels, stress, linking of words and of course the blending.  Then imitate.   You can try recording yourself doing the audio so that you can compare your version to my version.  This is how you will improve.

1. He’ll congratulate you.
2. I won’t interrupt you.
3. He’s glad you’re watching.
4.  He hasn’t had any food yet.
5.  He hurts your ears.
6.  He tricks you with a book. 
7.  She wears your groceries.
8.  She rides your bike recklessly.
9. Watch your step.
10. Look at Mary’s yellow dress.
11. I miss you.
12. Did you go?
13. Can’t you go?
14. How was your vacation?