A Stress-Full Language

Have you ever wondered why English is so hard to learn?

If you’re laughing because you think I’m funny, that’s great.
But if you’re laughing because you think I’m funny, that’s not funny.

It’s because English is such a stress-full language.

Without stress on the right words, the caption under the speaker makes no sense at all. Just why English evolved this way no one knows, but most other languages (I’ve heard) don’t add this kind of stressing to change the meaning of a phrase.

“Amber’s going to play the part of Lady MacBeth in the school play?”
(Amber? I don’t believe it)

“Amber’s going to play the part of Lady MacBeth in the school play?”
(Why on earth would they give her that part?)

“Amber’s going to play the part of Lady MacBeth in the school play.”
(No, not in the movie, not on a stage. just in the play at her school.)

So let’s have a little compassion for the brave souls who undertake to learn this flexible, but quite complex, language of ours.


If you’re new to blogging,, you might like to know that WordPress has provided us with the ability to stress certain words. If you want to leave a comment on someone else’s blog, you can emphasize words  by typing in <em> then your words to be italicized and then finish with </em>.

This can come in handy at times, especially if you want to quote someone, but you must remember to do both sides of the command or else you’ll end up with <em> or else </em> in your text and everyone will see you forgot the other half.

Bold is made by typing in <strong> then the words and then </strong>.


20 thoughts on “A Stress-Full Language

  1. Me again! It’s funny- yesterday I was thinking about the differences between English and Greek (my 2nd language is Greek ) Greek is pronounced exactly as it’s written- it’s an immensely phonetic language, and you can almost always deduce which word to stress in a sentence as ambiguous meanings are rare considering how many words exist in the Greek language to say the same thing, with subtle differences so as to be perfectly clear of the inference. There are also vowel or syllable stresses called a “tono” which must go in each word. Now a misplaced tono (stress/accent ) can change the whole meaning of a word. For example TElios (stress on the first syllable) means “perfect ” (masculine form) and telIOs (stress on second syllable) means “totally”. Thought some word nerds like me would find that interesting!


    1. English has the syllable stresses as well and it’s sometimes hard for ESL students to get them right. Like our French teacher who always talked about syl- AB-les. 🙂
      English spelling is a nightmare, because we’ve borrowed words from so many languages. Another thing that makes English hard is our use of prepositions to change a verb entirely. Like uptake, take up (a hobby), take up with (hang out with someone), take upon (oneself a responsibility). But at least we don’t have to contend with every noun being masculine or feminine. 🙂
      Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, ‘phrasal verbs’. In 10 years of teaching ESL, it was the most difficult concept for them to grasp as it literally does not exist in Greek! (😂😂I know syllable stress exists in English, I’m a native speaker! 😂I just meant you physically place an accent on the stressed syllable vowel in Greek which funnily enough, even native Greek speakers often get wrong!) OK, I’m done hijacking your comments section!


      2. Oh, I forgot you said Greek was your second language.
        Yes, those phrases can bring someone to tears. We can thank the Dutch for that; they gave us their way of tacking prepositions onto verbs.
        Thanks for your comments — I have no problem with getting them. I’m always happy to hear what others think of my ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, how I love my fellow word-nerds 🙂

    English is such a polyglot of languages that there are many rules you just have to memorize, because they make no sense at all. And our linking verb conjugation? Utterly without logic

    Am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been. Right. The only reason we get it right most f the time is because we grew up in a home in which our parents used correct grammar. Why did they do that? Well, because it was a normal part of –you got it–GRAMMAR school 🙂 Old-school English teachers such as I are appalled that very little English grammar is taught the way we learned it and taught it. And I won’t even talk about how texting has destroyed the rules of good communication!

    Christine, I didn’t know about and . I’ll have to try to remember that.


    1. You’re welcome. Glad you found this enlightening. This HTML codes info appeared in a WP communication one day and I’ve used them ever since. 🙂

      As for good old Grammar school…
      I’ve probably written before that the Province of Ontario eliminated the teaching of grammar twenty-odd years ago. Why? Because all those rules keep students from writing. Having to stick to rules, they say, hinders creative flow of thought. I say, “How did Charles Dickens, Wm Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, etc. manage?”

      Can you imagine attending a concert where the orchestra has abandoned the use their sheet music so has not to hinder the creative flow of sound? Will musical notes be the next thing to go in the school system? (I think I’m on my soap box now. Best get down. 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you could come up with a way for that… and still keep the teachers paid and the union happy… 🙂
        No, I think most teachers do like their job and are willing to do it, but they feel their hands are tied. You can’t flunk Johnny and damage his self esteem, you know. Our teachers admit to bumping grades up from 45% to 50% to keep students from failing.
        We read about one lawsuit where a teen sued his teacher for giving him a C instead of an A. “Emotional damage from which it would take a long time to recover.”
        This is an old link, but I think you’d enjoy reading through it, if you haven’t already:

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article! I agree, the stresses in English often define the meaning of the words! Two of my other favourite languages are much easier to learn because a) with French there aren’t any stresses and b) with Spanish the position of the stresses is presumed on the second to last syllable unless clearly marked with an accent above the vowel. Thanks for writing!


  4. Great article! I agree completely, there is no rhyme or reason to stressing syllables in English most of the time and people (quite rightly) guess!


    1. Yes, people guess and it gives us a chuckle to hear syl-AB-les rather than SYL-u-bles. Which is another thing; to make matters worse yet, we pronounced a third of our vowels as “u” (the mute, schwa, or upside-down e sound.) 🙂 Thanks for your comment.


  5. Which is another thing; to work matters worse, yesterday we marked a testiary of our vowels as the unspoken schwa, or inverted “e” sound. We read about one case where a pupil sued his teacher for giving him a C instead of an A.


    1. Hi Amaranto. I hope you don’t mind that I went over your comment and corrected it. I don’t understand why every place you typed an “e” your program made it into an “Es,” but now my other readers who see your comment will be able to understand what you are saying. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment.
      Yes, it did happen that one student sued his teacher for giving him a C instead of an A because it damaged his self-esteem. Silly, I think! He doesn’t want to admit he hasn’t bothered to learn the lesson.


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