Xu Hướng 2/2023 # Pronunciation Of Words With Weak And Strong Forms # Top 5 View | Hoisinhvienqnam.edu.vn

Xu Hướng 2/2023 # Pronunciation Of Words With Weak And Strong Forms # Top 5 View

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English is a stress-time language which means that some words are stressed and others are not when speaking. Generally, content words such as nouns and principal verbs are stressed, while structure words such as articles, helping verbs, etc. are not. 

The Structure of Words

A number of structure words have both weak and strong pronunciation. As a rule, the structure will take the weak pronunciation which means that the vowel becomes muted. For example, take a look at these sentences:

I can play piano.

Tom is from New England.

Here are these two sentences with accented words in italics.

Mary can play piano.

Tom is from Chicago.

‘Can’, and ‘from’ and ‘is’ are unaccented and the vowel is very weak. This weak vowel sound is often referred to as a schwa. In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) the schwa is represented as an upside-down ‘e’. It is, however, also possible to use these words with a strong form. Take a look at the same structure words, but used with strong pronunciation:

You CAN’T play tennis. – Yes, I CAN.

Where is Tom FROM?

In these two sentences, the placement at the end of the sentence calls for the strong pronunciation of the word. In other cases, the usually unaccented word becomes accented as a means of stressing that something is contrary to what is understood by others. Look at these two sentences in a dialogue.

You aren’t interested in coming next week, are you?

Yes, I AM interested in coming!

Try the following exercise to practice both the weak and strong form. Write two sentences: One sentence using the weak form, and one using the strong form. Try practicing these sentences taking care to quickly glide over the vowel in the weak form, or pronouncing the vowel or diphthong sound firmly in the strong form. Here are a few examples:

I’ve heard you have a company in the city. No, I work FOR a company in the city.

What are you looking for?

She is our sister.

OUR sister is so talented!

Practice Activity

Decide how the word indicated would change the meaning in the following sentences when using the strong form. Practice saying each sentence aloud alternating between weak and strong forms. Do you notice how the meaning changes through stress?

I am an English teacher in Portland, Oregon. – strong ‘am’

I am an English teacher from Portland, Oregon. – strong ‘from’

He said that she should see a doctor. – strong ‘should’

They were able to find a job despite the difficult market. – strong ‘were’

Do you know where he comes from? – strong ‘do’

I’ll give the assignment to them. – strong ‘them’

She’s one of our most valued students. – strong ‘our’

I’d like Tom and Andy to come to the party. – strong ‘and’


I AM an English teacher … = It’s true even though you don’t believe it.

…. teacher FROM Portland, Oregon. = That’s my home city, but not necessarily where I live and teach now. 

They WERE able to find a job … = It was possible for them though you think not.

DO you know where … = Do you know the answer to this question or not?

… the assignment to THEM. = Not you, the others.

She’s one of OUR most valued students. = She is one of us, not of you or them.

… Tom AND Andy … = Not only Tom, don’t forget Andy.

Here are some of the most common words that have weak/strong pronunciations. Generally speaking, use the week form (schwa) pronunciation of these words unless they are stressed by coming at the end of a sentence or due to unnatural stress made to facilitate understanding. 

Common Weak and Strong Words

a / am / an / and / are / as / at

be / been / but

can / could

do / does

for / from

had / has / have / he / her / him / his




of / our

shall / she / should / some

than / that / the / them / there / to


was / we / were / who / would / will

you / your

Phonetics: Strong Vs Weak Forms


Grammatical words are words that help us construct the sentence but they don’t mean anything: articles, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, etc.

These words have no stress, and so they are weakened. That weakened form is called “weak form” as opposed to a “strong form”, which is the full form of the word pronounced with stress. The strong form only happens when we pronounce the words alone, or when we emphasize them. Weak forms are very often pronounced with a schwa, and so are very weak and sometimes a bit difficult to hear properly.

Sometimes weak forms are easy to spot, because we use contractions in the spelling to show it:

I am French (strong form) I’m French (weak form)

But usually there is no change of spelling, only the pronunciation is different:

But strong form: /bʌt/ weak form: /bət/

Tell him to go strong forms /hɪm/ /tu:/ weak form: /tel əm tə gəʊ/

As you can see, the grammatical words “him” and “to” are unstressed and have a weak form when pronounced inside a sentence.

another example: I would like some fish and chips

strong forms /aɪ wʊd laɪk sʌm fɪʃ ænd tʃɪps/ This version sounds unnatural and, believe it or not, more difficult to understand for a native speaker.

weak forms /ɑ wəd laɪk səm fɪʃ ən tʃɪps/ and we can use weaker forms sometimes: /ɑd laɪk səm fɪʃ ən tʃɪps/ so we can see that the auxiliary verb “would” has two weak forms /wəd/ and /d/

Students who are learning English usually use only strong forms, and they sound very unnatural. English speakers use weak forms all the time, every single sentence is full of them, and students find it difficult to understand because they are not used to them, and very often they don’t even know they exist.

Why do grammatical words weaken the way they do. It’s all about rhythm. The way English is pronounced makes it necessary to weaken function words so you can keep the rhythm. You can find

more about rhythm here or simply watch this introduction video:



If you want to learn and practise weak forms follow these links:

  A video explaining more about 

Pronunciar las formas débiles   una web con explicaciones en español.

Phonetics in British songs we analyse the pronunciation of the British group One Direction and Ed Sheeran to see the weak forms in action as they sing.


Strong Words, Adjectives And Adverbs In Writing, Weak Words, Show Don’T Tell

Show, Don’t Tell

Every writer knows this mantra, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what that means. The verb “to be” and all its iterations often takes a writer down the “telling” path. Here’s a blatant example:

“The mountain was big.”-How big? Bigger than a car? A house?

I’m telling you something here about a mountain, but not showing you anything at all. Here’s how a couple of strong verbs can show how big that mountain really is:

“Mt. Rainier thrusts its stony, snow-capped peak more than 14,000 feet into the brilliant blue skies of western Washington, where it reigns as the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.”

One more:

“The movie was great.”-Really? You wouldn’t know it from that sentence. How about:

“The new indie film struck a chord with the audience, who gasped in horror over the grisly murder, but laughed uproariously when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

“The new indie film struck a chord with the audience, who gasped in horror over the grisly murder, but …

… guffawed when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

… snickered when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

… tittered when the murderer slipped on a bloody banana peel.”

In each of these examples, I found the replacement verb distracting, so I stuck with my original verb: “to laugh”. The problem was that just “laughing” didn’t seem to provide enough of a contrast to gasping in horror, so I added “uproariously” to heighten the difference.

Adverbs and adjectives are not bad in and of themselves. Words are a writer’s palette and they come in all colors, but writers should choose carefully, not rely on the default settings.

“To write” is a verb-an action word-so act with intention when you write.

Context Matters

Finding the right word is often dependent on context. A flabby verb will work almost anywhere, but a strong verb fits best within a particular context. For example, let’s look at two sentences using the common (flabby) verb “went”:

The racehorse went around the track three times.

The airplane went slowly across the tarmac.

While the word “went” works just as well (or poorly) in each of these sentences, stronger, more precise verbs will bring them to life and paint completely different pictures.

The racehorse trotted around the track three times.

The racehorse galloped around the track three times.

The racehorse limped around the track three times.

“Trotted”, “galloped”, and “limped” are all fine synonyms for “went” in this sentence, and each one delivers a different image of our horse. None of these verbs, however, can replace “went” in our second sentence, but a more precise verb choice, such as “inched” or “rolled”, will give us a better picture of how that plane moved on the tarmac.

I recently gave this same exercise to some students, asking them to replace the word “went” in the following 10 sentences. In parentheses, I have shown their suggestions. We then voted on the best changes.

Which verb would you have chosen, or do you have an even better suggestion?

The jockey nearly flew off his saddle as the horse went (raced, ran, bolted, galloped) for the finish line.

The ghost faded before their eyes as he went (floated, disappeared, evaporated, glided) through the closed door.

The old jalopy went (zigzagged, lumbered, hiccoughed, bumbled) down the street, belching little clouds of black smoke in its wake.

Even with a fever of 104°, the dedicated nurse went (dragged herself, made it, schlepped, trudged) to the hospital.

“You’re going to miss my exit!” shouted the passenger, as the taxi driver made a hard right and went (careened, rolled, skidded, screeched) onto the ramp.

The passengers heaved a collective sigh of relief as the airplane went (lifted, rose, glided, elevated) silently up into the sky.

After months of suffering, the cancer patient went (passed away, perished, died, expired) quietly in his sleep.

While the grownups around him carefully avoided the puddles, the little boy went (jumped, skipped, splashed, pranced) right through them.

“I’m not tired and I don’t want to go to bed!” Tommy protested as he went (stomped, scrambled, trudged, stumbled) up the stairs.

Batman went (dove, stormed, swung, soared) into action, taking the bad guys by surprise.

One of my favorite classroom exercises is to bring in a poster board titled “Bad Words”, with the list of offending words draped in a piece of black tissue paper. I tell the class to think (not say) the worst word they can think of. This always elicits lots of giggling and then surprise when I reveal my list of “bad words”:

But, as George Carlin once noted, there aren’t really any bad words. There are only poor choices. In any given context, a word can be imprecise, flabby, flowery, boring, or perfect. It’s up to you, the writer, to choose the right ones.

Strong Words To Help You Stay Strong

When people did this during a high-intensity cycling class, they were able to push harder for longer (up to 18 percent more), according to a study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. “Motivational self-talk, opposed to any kind of self-talk, works well for endurance performance because it reduces perception of effort, most likely through an increase in self-efficacy,” says Samuele Marcora, Ph.D., lead study author and professor of sport and exercise sciences at the University of Kent, Medway, in the United Kingdom. He adds that the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) in study subjects was reduced by 12 percent, enough to significantly increase performance.

Push Yourself Higher

Yet don’t think motivational self-talk is for endurance workouts alone. It also can be used to increase workload during high-intensity interval training.

It can even benefit you during competition, says Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physical Education & Sport Sciences at the University of Thessaly in Greece. For instance, his research has revealed that an eight-week self-talk training program and the use of self-talk in competition improved swimming times in young swimmers.

Want to reap the rewards of motivational self-talk? Follow these steps:

1) Identify your goals. This may seem obvious, but motivational self-talk won’t work unless you know what you want to achieve, Hatzigeorgiadis says.

2) Personalize your phrases. With your goal in hand, create a list of phrases that are meaningful and appealing to you. Keep them short, positive and motivational in nature, Marcora says. For instance, “drive forward” and “you’re doing well” worked well for participants in his study. Other research, by the way, has found that addressing yourself as “you” versus “I” is more effective.

3) Say it or think it. Whether you say these phrases out loud or think them isn’t important. The one caveat, though? “If you’re doing intense exercise, saying them out loud might be difficult and disturb your breathing,” Marcora says.

4) Time your talk right. It’s not just about what you say but when you say these phrases that matters. In Marcora’s study, participants used phrases that gave them confidence they could keep going longer during the middle part of the test effort. Phrases like “hang in there” and “feeling good” worked well. Yet as they approached the end when they were pushing at maximal effort, they used statements like “keep pushing” to help mobilize their effort.

5) Practice it. If you want motivational self-talk to help you during an actual competition, it has to be part of your training regimen. So sprinkle phrases that work well for you into your training sessions and use them consistently, Hatzigeorgiadis says.

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