Sentence Stress Content And Function Words
Sentence stress is similar to word stress, and is just as important to understand. Luckily, with sentence stress you do not have as many rules or exceptions to learn. When teachers refer to the rhythm, or beat of a sentence, they are typically referring to sentence stress. They can also be referring to linking in connected speech as well, but this lesson focuses on sentence stress. Sentence stress puts the stress or beat on certain words in the sentence, making the sound of the sentence go up and down, depending on the type of word being pronounced. Typically, the content words receive the main stress in a sentence. Function, or what are also called structure words, do not receive the stress in the sentence. To better understand the difference between the two, here they are listed out:
Types of Content Words
This is a chart showing a list of the content words that receive the stress when saying sentences out loud. These receive more emphasis and sound louder than the other types of words. Content words are useful since they help the listener understand the meaning of the sentence.
|Nouns(Not Pronouns)||People, Places and Things||Jack, Dog, Cat, Brazil, Texas, Car, Hat|
|Main Verbs||Verbs Excluding Auxiliary(Helping) Verbs||Walk, Talk, Think, Run, Speak, Chew|
|Adjectives||Words That Modify(Describe) Nouns||Blue, Happy, Pink, Helpful, Harmful, Fast, Slow|
|Adverbs(Excluding Adverbs of Frequency)||Words That Modify(Describe) Verbs||Totally, Quickly, Eagerly, Nervously, Safely|
|Negatives||Words That Negate Or Change Things To A Negative||Never, No, Neither, Nothing, Nowhere, Not, None|
|Wh Question Words||Used For Question Sentences||Who, What, Where, When, Why, How|
Types of Function(Structure) Words
Function words are not as useful when it comes to understanding the meaning of the sentence. Function words are important for making the sentence grammatically correct. This is a chart showing a list of the function words that DO NOT receive the stress when saying sentences out loud.
|Pronouns||Used To Replace Known Nouns||He, She, It, They, Them, Us, We|
|Auxiliary(Helping) Verbs||Used To Support The Main Verbs||Is, Will, Shall, May, Might, Has, Would, Need|
|Prepositions||Used To Show The Relationship Between Content Words||After, Around, Beneath, Beside, To, Up, Upon, Within|
|Conjunctions||Used To Join Clauses||For, And, After, Because, However, Either Or, Neither Nor|
|Determiners||Used To Give Details To Nouns||A, An, The, Some, Any, Every, Each, This, That, Those|
|Adverbs of Frequency||Used To Tell How Often An Action Is Done||Always, Rarely, Usually, Normally, Infrequently, Often, Sometimes|
Sentences With Content And Function Words
Now that an understanding of each of the types is known, it is easy to see how to use them. Here are some examples of sentence stress with the stress on the content words in bold:
- Help me.
- Can you help me?
- Can Jane help me?
- Who can help Jane?
- Who can help Jane move it?
- Who can help me move the bike?
- Who can help me move the bike into the garage?
- How did Jack move the bike into the garage?
- Jane finished her homework.
- She did it.
- She worked until the morning.
- Jane walked into the blue house.
- She walked into it.
- She did not walk into the red house.
- Jenny did not walk into it, and neither did Jack.
- Jenny and Jack did not walk into it.
Sentence Stress Review
There are three main rules for sentence stress. By understanding and remembering these rules, it is easy to learn how to add rhythm, or beat to sentences when speaking.
- Stress content words
- Do NOT stress function words
- Keep the time between stressed words the same
There are a few exceptions to these rules. One exception to the sentence stress rules is when correcting information.
- They left at seven, correct? No, they left at six. Normally the pronoun they is not stressed.
- Is it in the house? No, it is in the car. Normally the preposition in is not stressed.
Another exception is when be is used as a main verb. Here are a few examples of be used as a main verb and receiving the main sentence stress:
- I am here.
- Jane is here.
A final exception is when auxiliary verbs are used in the negative form. Here are a few examples of auxiliary verbs used receiving the main sentence stress:
- He didn’t go.
- Jack hasn’t been to the lake.