English Rules You Didn't Learn in School!: Words with 2 Stresses!

Well, "English Rules You Didn't Learn in School" have been so popular that we're going to do more than three and keep the series going!  

But first, a recap of previous blog posts!:
  In Part I we studied morphology (e.g. how to build words) and learned when to use "Un-" or "In-" to make a negative word." In Part II we examined some phonetics (e.g. how to pronounce words) and looked at how we should pronounce the past tense "-ed" in different cases.  Finally, last time, in Part III, we focused on syntax (e.g. how to build sentences) and looked at some guidelines for organizing adjectives.

The Importance of Stress in English!

Today, we will go back to phonetics and pronunciation and look at an interesting phenomena in English about shifting the stress between some 2 syllable words in English that have both verb forms and noun forms!

Stress, as you may know, is very important to being understood in English-- not only does stress affect meaning in sentences, but it also affects English speakers' abilities to separate different words in your speech stream so they can understand you.  In fact, we have a whole mini-course on English stress and you can try a free lesson here.

One major way in which stress can affect meaning is by helping us recognize if a word is a noun or a verb.  Let's take a look at this sample list of words that can be both nouns and verbs:

In each of these cases, the stress for the Noun Form will be on the first syllable and the stress for the Verb Form will be on the 2nd syllable:

  • Noun: I would like to give you a PREsent.
  • Verb: I would like to preSENT you with our findings
  • Noun: Do you have a PERmit to build the building there?
  • Verb: The officials perMITconstruction in the part of town.

Take a listen to the audio below that includes each of these sentences above:

Exercise 1: Pick Noun or Verb!

Now, let's try an exercise!  The below audio recording has pairings for 6 of the words above.  One word in each pair is a noun (e.g. stress on the first syllable) and the other is the verb (e.g. stress on the 2nd syllable).  Take a listen and see if you can guess which is the noun form in each pair 1 through 6!

Want to check your answers? Scroll down to the Comments Section below to find the answer key!

And, to wrap things up, here's our rule (well, more like a guideline since it only works most of the time) on the stress for 2 syllable words that have a noun and a verb form!:

And that's all for this week's blog! Hope you Enjoyed it and leave any questions or comments you might have in the answer key below! And remember, if you'd like to take advantage of a free pronunciation lesson (perhaps even one that works on stress!) you can sign up to try a free lesson hereSee you next time!