3 Syllable Word Stress

3 syllable words in English can have the main stress on any syllable:

FIRST SYLLABLE: carnival /ˈkɑːnɪvᵊl/
SECOND SYLLABLE: delicious /dɪˈlɪʃəs/
THIRD SYLLABLE: engineer /ɛndʒɪˈnɪə/

It is not possible to tell from looking at a 3 syllable word, where the main stress will be. Examples of words with each stress pattern are:

First Syllable Stress

octopus /ˈɒktəpəs/
parliament /ˈpɑːləmənt/
somebody /ˈsʌmbədi/
following /ˈfɒləʊɪŋ/

Second Syllable Stress

collision /kəˈlɪʒ(ə)n/
contagious /kənˈteɪdʒəs/
perfection /pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)n/
investor /ɪnˈvɛstə/

Third Syllable Stress

employee /ɛmplɔɪˈiː/
understand /ʌndəˈstand/
Cantonese /kantəˈniːz/
volunteer /vɒlənˈtɪə/

Stress Shift

For words that have the main stress on the third syllable, the stress can shift to the first syllable in connected speech if there is a stress directly after it in the sentence:

He’s a Portuguese sailor. 


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