Languages › English as a Second Language Stress Types in English Pronunciation Share Flipboard Email Print MacGregor & Gordon / Getty Images English as a Second Language Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Grammar Business English Resources for Teachers By Kenneth Beare English as a Second Language (ESL) Expert TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and course developer with over three decades of teaching experience. our editorial process Kenneth Beare Updated July 31, 2019 Improving sentence intonation is one of the key elements in English pronunciation. The four basic types of word stress that lead to proper intonation in English are: Tonic stressEmphatic stressContrastive stressNew information stress Tonic Stress Tonic stress refers to the syllable in a word which receives the most stress in an intonation unit. An intonation unit has one tonic stress. It's important to remember that a sentence can have more than one intonation unit, and therefore have more than one tonic stress. Here are some examples of intonation units with the tonic stress bolded: He's waitingHe's waiting / for his friendHe's waiting / for his friend / at the station Generally, the final tonic stress in a sentence receives the most stress. In the above example, 'station' receives the strongest stress. There are a number of instances in which the stress changes from this standard. Emphatic Stress If you decide to emphasize something, you can change the stress from the principal noun to another content word such as an adjective (big, difficult, etc.), intensifier (very, extremely, etc.) This emphasis calls attention to the extraordinary nature of what you want to emphasize. For example: That was a difficult test. - Standard statementThat was a difficult test. - Emphasizes how difficult the test was There are a number of adverbs and modifiers which tend to be used to emphasize in sentences that receive emphatic stress: ExtremelyTerriblyCompletelyUtterlyEspecially Contrastive Stress Contrastive stress is used to point out the difference between one object and another. Contrastive stress tends to be used with determiners such as 'this, that, these and those'. For example: I think I prefer this color.Do you want these or those curtains? Contrastive stress is also used to bring out a given word in a sentence which will also slightly change the meaning. He came to the party yesterday. (It was he, not someone else.)He walked to the party yesterday. (He walked, rather than drove.)He came to the party yesterday. (It was a party, not a meeting or something else.)He came to the party yesterday. (It was yesterday, not two weeks ago or some other time.) New Information Stress When asked a question, the requested information is naturally stressed more strongly. For example: Where are you from? - I come from Seattle, in the USA.What do you want to do? - I want to go bowling.When does class begin? - The class begins at nine o'clock. Use these various types of stress to help improve your pronunciation and understandability.