Stress and Reductions in Sentences

Stress + Reduced Syllables

We have talked about stressed syllables before. We can imagine that they are 100% whole and complete. Remember that stress means: louder, longer, higher, clearer, and bigger 😁

a basket of vegetables
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash 

Reduction is the opposite of stress in English.

Reduction, or reduced syllables are:

  • Quicker: they are not as long, and you might delete some of the sounds.
  • Less clear: the vowels might change to “uh” /ə/
  • Quieter: they are not as loud
  • Normal pitch: they are not musical, high or low
  • Smaller: speakers’ mouths do not open or move as much
a pot of chopped vegetables
Photo by Rio Lecatompessy on Unsplash

You can imagine that they are chopped up. Reduced stress makes it easier to put things together in spoken English, once you learn how.

This can help you with understanding other speakers, too. For example:

  1. I just want to have some peace and quiet around here.
  2. Sorry, but I didn’t hear that.
  3. How is it going?

Example 1: And

In normal American English, the word “and” usually reduces to “an” with a schwa sound: /ən/

Here are some common phrases and idioms. Can you practice reducing “and”?

A. Reducing and

  1. peace and quiet
  2. rock and roll
  3. bread and butter
  4. pride and joy
  5. death and taxes
  6. fair and square
  7. by and large
  8. smoke and mirrors
  9. blood, sweat and tears
  10. it cost an arm and a leg

Content Words

Nouns, verb, adjectives and adverbs are usually stressed in sentences.
Prepositions, articles and conjunctions are usually not  stressed.

You can usually understand the main ideas if you focus on the content words, too!

In a kitchen, flames are rising from a pan next to a person.
Photo by lasse bergqvist on Unsplash
  • FIre KItchen
  • FIre in KItchen
  • FIre in the KItchen
  • a FIre in the KItchen
  • There’s a FIre in the Kitchen
weather forecast symbol for snow
Image by marcos101 from Pixabay
  • SNOW exPECted FRIday
  • SNOW is exPECted FRIday
  • SNOW is exPECted on FRIday
  • the SNOW is exPECted on FRIday

B. Which words are stressed in these sentences?

  1. Sorry, but I didn’t hear that.
  2. Could you say that again?
  3. The student accounts office is in the CC building.
  4. Go outside and walk to the library.
  5. If you look to the right, you should see the CC building.

Example Reduction 2: Her, Hers, He, Him, His

These pronouns usually loose the “H” in normal US English sentences. But, they keep the stress and the full “H” if they are the first word.

  • I like her –> I liker
  • I like him –> I likim
  • Where is hers? –> Wherzerz?
  • Where is his? –> Wherziz?
A man and woman are arguing.
Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

C. Find these pronouns in this short conversation. Can you reduce them and combine them in a fluent sentence?

  1. How is it going? Wait, is everything ok?
  2. Where is Adam? Did you see him leave?
  3. Sara came and he got really mad at her.
  4. I don’t know what his problem is, or maybe it’s her problem.
  5. They have both had a hard time.
  6. I don’t think he has been happy at his job.
  7. I know she wants to quit hers.
  8. Oh, did you get his text? They both had to leave, but I guess things are ok.

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