How to Stress Words in American English

Do You Know How to Stress Words in American English?

One of the most common questions my accent reduction clients ask is this~

Susan, which words should I stress when I speak American English?

It’s an excellent question!

American English Speakers Don’t Stress Every Word

After a few coaching sessions, my clients begin to understand that Americans don’t stress every word in a sentence.

That’s when I teach them the rules for word stress in sentences

Word Stress in Sentences

Here are some guidelines you can follow~

American English speakers stress (or emphasize) the most important words in a sentence or phrase.

Usually the most important words are


If you want to speak with increased clarity, you should do that too.

Reduce the Sound of Many Words

American English speakers reduce the sounds of smaller words. Little words like the ones below are usually reduced.

  • the
  • and
  • it
  • can

Focus Words, Content Words & Function Words

Pronunciation textbooks often use the terms Focus words, Content words & Function words when referring to word stress.

My Waves Analogy

I often say that the important words are like waves in the ocean. You need to rise up on each one by using more pitch.

The most important word (or focus word) is like a slightly bigger wave. You need to rise up on that word just a bit more.

The graphic below illustrates what I mean



Learn How to Stress Words in American English

Inn my iBook for the American accent, you’ll learn how to stress words in sentences so that you can speak more clearly

My iBook is easy to use. That’s because all of the audio and video lessons are built right into the book.

There are lots of practice exercises too!

If you are an iPad user, working to improve the way you speak American English, take a look at the details here ☛ American Accent iBook.