Verbs are content words, which means they will be stressed in a sentence. This means they should be louder and have an up-down shape of the voice. Study what verbs sound like in sentences.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the topic of word stress and verbs.
If you’ve already seen my video on an introduction to word stress, and my video on content words, then you know that main verbs will be stressed in a sentence. Today we’re going to look at some sentences and see what this actually means, to be stressed. In the sentence, I’m leaving soon, what do you notice about the pitch? I’m leaving soon. If you’re not sure what you’re hearing, here’s a visual. I’m leaving soon. The blue line is the pitch. You can see the shape of the stress in the word ‘leaving’. Up then down leaving [3x]. So the voice goes up in pitch, and then down. That is the shape of stress. I’m leaving soon. So, that will be the shape of main verbs when you’re speaking, because main verbs are content words, and content words are stressed.
Let’s look at some more sentences. She’s taking the bus. She’s taking the bus. Taking. She’s taking the bus. The up and down of the voice is not as dramatic here as it was in the first example. But you can still clearly see this little curve. That gliding up and down motion is the shape of stress. Taking. [3x] We’re running late. [4x] Here again, the change in pitch, up and down, is not so big. But it is unmistakable. Running, running.I passed the test. [4x] Again, you see the glide up and glide down, curve of the voice on the stressed syllable, passed. Passed. [3x]
It’s important that you don’t rush through content words. Give them enough time to have this shape of up and down. This up/down shape is in contrast to function words, which will be flatter, lower in pitch, and also quicker. This contrast is what makes American English easy to understand to American ears. So, correct American English pronunciation depends on it. To work on this, take any text. First, pull out the verb and work on it on its own: work, work. Then speed it up, maintaining the shape, and put it back into the sentence, again, making sure that you have this up/down shape, to make sure you’re stressing the word. Never go through the word so quickly that you’re giving up the shape. Now that you know that main verbs should be stressed, and how to stress them, go out and do just that.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.
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