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Strong form and weak form in English conversation

English Words are Stressed when speaking

It is very common to use strong form and weak form when speaking in English because English is a stress-time language. It means you stress on content words such as nouns and principal verbs, while structure words such as helping verbs, conjunctions, prepositions… are not stressed. Using proper strong form and weak form can help you to speak English more fluently.

For example, take a look at these sentences:

  • She can play violin.
  • Mary is from Chicago.

Here are these two sentences with stressed words in bold.

  • She can play violin.
  • Mary is from Chicago.

In this case the words ‘can‘ and ‘is from‘ are weak form. The weak form change the vowel to “ə” sound.

  • can in strong form: /kæn/
  • can in weak form: /kən/
  • from in strong form: /frɔm/
  • from in weak form: /frəm/

Below are some function words that you can remember:

  • auxiliar verbs am, are, be, been, can, could, do, does, has, had, shall, should, was, were, would,
  • prepositions at, for, from, of, to,
  • pronouns he, her, him, his, me, she, them, us, we, you,
  • conjunctions for, and, but, or, than, that,
  • particles to,
  • articles  a, the, an,


Function words have both strong and weak forms in English

A lot of function words have both strong and weak forms. As a rule, the weak form turns the vowel to be muted. For example, take a look at these sentences:


Strong form

Weak form



– when stands before the vowels

Ex: They have bought the apples.


– when stands before the consonants

Ex: I dislike the man.



– stress on the contrast

Ex: I’m but a fool.

/ bət/

– mention the difference

Ex: His girl friend is very beautiful, but is not enough intelligent.



– as a demonstrative pronoun or adjective

Ex: That is Tom’s car.


– as a relative pronoun.

Ex: I think that we should improve quality of services a lot.



– stress on the verb of action

Ex: She does hope for interview next week.


– as a helping verb ()

Ex: Does she work as a teacher?



Ex: This gift was sent to him not to his wife.


Ex: I haven’t seen him for ages.



Ex: He loves her but not other girls.


Ex: Her mother is still young.



Ex: A good job is what I looking for.


Ex: I am looking for a job.



What are you looking at?


I’ll meet you at the office.

How strong form and weak form are used in everyday English conversation.

The weak form is usually used in everyday English conversation, especially when speaking fast. But there are many situations you have to speak in strong form for the followings:

1. Stand at the end of sentence

  • What are you looking at (/æt/)?
  • Where are you from (/ frɔm/)?

2. In the contrast situations

  • The letter is from him, not to him. /frɔm/ /tu/
  • He likes her, but does she like him? /hə:/ /him/

3. Stress on opposite prepositions

  • I travel to and from London a lot. /tu/ /frɔm/

4. Stress on the purpose of the meaning.

  • You must get the unniversity certificate to have good job in the future. /mʌst/
  • You must choose us or them, you cannot have all. /mʌst/

The words that have two syllables or more will have the strong pronunciation and weak pronunciation. The vowel of the weak pronunciation will be chaned to /ə/ sound. Let’s see the following examples:

Strong formWeak form
uButter / ‘bʌtə/Autumn / ‘ɔ:təm/
eSettlement / ‘setlməntViolet / ‘vaiələt/
orMortgage / ‘mɔ:gidʒ/Forget / fə‘get/
oPotato / pə’teitou/Carrot / ‘kærət/
arMarch /mɑ:t∫/Particular /pə‘tikjulə/
aCharacter / ‘kæriktə/Attend [ə‘tend]


Hope that you have understood the use of strong form and weak form in English through this simple lesson. If you have any questions, write it in comment below.




29 thoughts on “Strong form and weak form in English conversation”

  1. how are prepositions like of-to -at- of -from- for pronounced in weak or strong forms when they stand at the beginning of sentences?

    1. Hello Nad,
      Prepositions at the beginning of a sentence are usually unstressed and therefore have the weak form.
      Good luck with your English,

  2. Very informative article. You present a complex topic in a nice way. I would like to share my video with your readers. It is about weak forms in English with the verb to be. Feel free to connect. I like getting to know people in the English teaching world.

  3. Please make it clear and easy way to get understand about the strong forms weak forms and contracted words

    1. simaoracisco2019@gmail.com

      I really like but l still have some questions regarding weak forms because l am learning english as second Language but any way thanks for sharing your knowledge .

  4. The lesson is very nice and you simplified it ,but I still have a problem with weak forms especially when do I use the weak form of the verb (to be)in sentences ,so please send me a more detailed lesson about this topic and thank you for your help to learn English.

  5. i w0uld like to add that we should technically ask the expert of this material to american and british expertise of it

    1. The lesson is very interesting and educative. Please I would like you to post more examples on auxiliary verbs. Thank you.

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