Sentence Stress

Listen to the following sentences. Which word is the most stressed in each sentence?

I went to the cinema.
He ate a slice of pizza.

A native speaker will naturally stress the words ‘cinema’ and ‘pizza’ in these two sentences.

How do we choose which word to stress the most in a sentence?

  • In spoken English, one word in each phrase is more stressed than the others.
  • We usually stress the last content word in a sentence.
  • Content words are the words that carry real meaning, e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
  • The most stressed syllable within that content word is called the tonic syllable.


The builders are noisy.

I’ll give my phone to you.

Shall we go for a swim?

Shall we swim in the lake?


Which word in each sentence below should be the most stressed?

A. Did you eat the cake? B. Let’s go after lunch. C. Can you take a call from her? D. I’m really bored. E. It was nice to meet you. F. I need to wash my hair. G. Should we do it? H. Can you feed the dog?

A. cake B. lunch C. call D. bored E. meet F. hair G. do H. dog