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.