The most straightforward syllable stress rules are for 2-syllable nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Generally speaking, the following is true:

  • 2-syllable nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are usually stressed on the first syllable
  • 2-syllable verbs are usually stressed on the second syllable

(What happens to the unstressed syllables? See our Introduction to Schwa /ə/ lesson for information!)

First syllable stress

1. Nouns

'par ent, 'stud ent,  'mem ber

2. Adjectives

'qui et, 'bet ter, 'ba sic

3. Adverbs

'sel dom, 'may be, 'nev er

3. Second syllable stress

1. Verbs

em 'brace, sus 'pend, ne' glect


2-syllable heteronyms

Some words, called heteronyms, have a single spelling, but two different pronunciations. There are a number of 2-syllable words that are stressed on the first syllable when the word is being used as a noun or adjective, and stressed on the the second syllable when it is being used as a verb.

1. 'pro ject, pro 'ject

2. 'sus pect, sus pect


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