To put the stress on a word when I speak, in Italian I would raise the tone on the accented vowel; raising the tone of accented vowels is normally done when reading an Italian word, but it is even more raised when putting the accent.

Sono nervso. I am nervous.

As alternative, I could say the word syllable by syllable.

Sono ner vo so.

What is the way to put the stress a word, in spoken English?

I was reading a book about General American, and if I understood it, that is done making a vowel sound longer. (I am not sure that is the normal way done American English, or only in General American.)

  • 1
    Are you talking about emphasizing a particular word? For example, "I'm really nervous." Where you emphasize the "really" to explain how very nervous you are?
    – WendiKidd
    Nov 19, 2013 at 18:15
  • @WendiKidd: although OP uses the word "vowel" when he means "syllable" in his post it is clear he/she is asking about word accent (usually called stress) and not sentence stress.
    – None
    Dec 13, 2013 at 10:52
  • @WendiKidd Yes, I am talking about emphasizing a particular word.
    – apaderno
    Dec 18, 2013 at 4:08

1 Answer 1


Some say word stress in English is variable, which means it does not always obey to rules. There are lots of rules about stressed syllables and lots of exceptions as well. You can learn the rules but until you are proficient enough you'd better check in a dictionary (most will give the IPA ) and on the internet you can listen to the word in most online dictionaries. You will find lots of online courses to learn about English pronunciation and they'll all have a section on word stress. Examples: Englishclub, Linguapress, American English Pronuncian, the list could be very long, don't forget to check youtube as well.

In English stressing a syllable is not a question of making the vowels sounds sound longer, because in English the difference between long and short vowel sounds is a criteria to make oneself understood. It is more a combination of pitch and loudness.
There can be several stressed syllables in one word, one being the "primary" stress (the syllable that will be said with more loudness, so to speak), the other(s) is/are called "secondary". In the IPA the primary stress symbol is /ˈ/ and the secondary stress symbol is /ˌ/, the symbol in both cases is placed before the stressed syllabe.

I hope you are aware that in English you don't only have word stress, but sentence stress as well. And combination of word stress and sentence stress is essential to make yourself understood in English.

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