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Unit 5:Sentence Stress & Rhythm

Section 1: Focus 

Section 2: From Listening To Pronunciation
Section 3: Pronunciation Drills
Section 4: Variety Show

Section 5: Listen And Check


Section 1: Focus


  Introduction of Sentence Stress and Rhythm

Sentence Stress

   When a speaker says a sentence, there is usually one focus of meaning which the speaker stresses. Sentence stress is where the focus is on. When the sentence is simple, there is only one sentence stress. But if the sentence is a compound or complex sentence, which may carry more than one clause, there will be more than one sentence stress. The following sentences are simple ones that will help you build up the conception of sentence stress.

1.     It doesnˇ¦t say.

2.   Iˇ¦ve never seen it.

3.   We could go dancing.

4.   We might go to the circus.

5.   Iˇ¦ve lived in Seattle my whole life.

6.   I think itˇ¦s on at nine oˇ¦clock.

7.   Itˇ¦s incredibly fast.

8.   Well, she worked hard.

9.   It was one of the funniest part of the movie!

10. They serve all kinds of hamburgers.


   The rhythm of English is based on the contrast of stressed and unstressed syllables. The rhythm may not be always there, but overall, it follows a musical unity. The following sentences will give you an idea of how they are said. The stressed syllables are in capital letters, but the unstressed parts are underlined, its rotation shows the ˇ§do-me-do-meˇ¨ rhythm, which is mentioned in Unit 4. Rhythm is most obvious in report English, such as news reports and narration of a reading passage. While the most common narration we experience, such as telling a childrenˇ¦s story, presents the most distinctive rhythm. Please note No. 10 in this exercise to feel the rhythm of report English.

1.     You can either WALK or take the SUBway.

2.     Well, they ALSO come in SMALler sizes.

3.     In fact, BOTH of my daughters live in CHICAGO.

4.     You can either DRIVE or take a BUS.

5.     I should be BACK no later than THREE.

6.     Iˇ¦ll give her the message as soon as she GETS IN.

7.     My BROther and I used to FIGHT all the time.

8.     Iˇ¦m so HUNgry I could eat a HORSE.

9.     I guess a LITTLE EXercise would do YOU good.

10. The HUman BOdy is MADE to MOVE and it WORKS BEST when it GETS REgular EXcercise.




Section 2: From Listening To Pronunciation


    Closely observe dialogues or reading passages, one can easily find various supra-segmental features prevail everywhere. The following dialogue and reading passage contain various supra-segmental features. Please listen as many times as you would like, and observe the features as presented.


Now listen to Conversation 5 of the elementary level from the following site:



Reading Passage:

  Listen to the reading passages, and you will find grouping of words also help with creating rhythm in speaking English. Listen while reading the lines in the passages to know the grouping principals.




Section 3: Pronunciation Drills

    After you observed the dialogue and reading passages from the previous section, you have probably had a thorough understanding of how grouping of words help with stress. The following practices are sentence exercises for each feature we introduce in this unit. Practice them, and you will get the rhythm of spoken English.

Sentence Drill

            The following web pages can help you get a even clearer picture of how sentence stress is spoken.



Rhythm Drill

             Besides stress, grouping of words when saying them is also essential to create rhythm. We do not speak English word by word, rather we speak with groups of words. The following exercise will help you understand the rules of grouping words.





Section 4: Variety Show


English learning is not just hard work. Here we have some interesting activities for you to learn and have fun! Turn on the sound track to hear them!

Nursery Rhyme (U5_nursery rhyme)

          ComPUter, comPUter,
          I LOVE my comPUter.
          My PRINter, my KEYboard, my MOUSE.
          I NEver have PROblems,
          I use it ALL DAY.
          I NEver go OUT of the house!

         ComPUter, comPUter,
          I HATE my comPUter.
          My MOdem, my DISK DRIVE, my SCREEN.
          I ALways have PROblems,
          Itˇ¦s DRIving me CRAZY.
          CompPUters MAKE me want to SCREAM!


          Please click on number 30 on the following page to hear the recitation of the poem.


         ˇ§Annebelle Leeˇ¨ Written by Edgar Allen Poe, Recited by Khandi Alexander


         It was MANY and MANY a year ago,

         In a KINGdom by the SEA,

        That a MAIden THERE lived WHOM you may KNOW

        By the NAME of ANnabelle LEE;

        And this maiden SHE lived with NO Other thought

        Than to LOVE and BE loved by ME. 

        I was a CHILD and she was a CHILD,

        In this KINGdom by the SEA;

       But we LOVED with a LOVE that was MORE than love -

       I and my ANnabelle Lee;

       With a LOVE that the WINged SEraphs of HEAven

      COveted HER and ME.

      But our love was STRONger by FAR than the LOVE

      Of THOSE who were OLder than we

      Of many FAR WIser than we

      And NEIther the ANgels in HEAven aBOVE,

      Nor the DEmons down UNDER the SEA,

      Can EVER disSEver my SOUL from the SOUL

      Of the BEAUtiful Annabelle Lee.

      For the moon NEver beams without bringing me DREAMS

      Of the BEAUtiful Annabelle Lee;

      And the stars NEVER rise but I FEEL the BRIGHT EYES

      Of the BEAUtiful Annabelle Lee.


      (Source: Sound Check 11, p. 93, Get Real 2, by Angela Buckingham and Miles Craven, 2001, Oxford: Macmillan Education, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited.)



Section 5: Listen And Check


   No learning is completed without a quiz to check your comprehension. The following quiz is designed for you to check whether you can identify the supra-segmental features introduced in this unit. They ARE in the sentences.

Listening Quiz  

    The following sentences were originally spoken as a dialogue. Please listen and mark a hook under the words when you identify it is linked.


 Grouping words:

Please print out the following passage first. then listen and mark a straight line in between the words when you hear there is a pause. The first sentence has been done for you.

Cleck here for downloading. :)