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:

Word

Strong form

Weak form

The

/ði/

– when stands before the vowels

Ex: They have bought the apples.

/ðə/

– when stands before the consonants

Ex: I dislike the man.

But

/bʌt/

– 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.

That

/ðæt/

– as a demonstrative pronoun or adjective

Ex: That is Tom’s car.

/ðət/

– as a relative pronoun.

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

Does

/dʌz/

– stress on the verb of action

Ex: She does hope for interview next week.

/dəz/

– as a helping verb ()

Ex: Does she work as a teacher?

Him

 /him/

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

/im/

Ex: I haven’t seen him for ages.

Her

/hə:/

Ex: He loves her but not other girls.

/hə/

Ex: Her mother is still young.

For

 /fɔ:/

Ex: A good job is what I looking for.

/fə/

Ex: I am looking for a job.

At

 /æt/

What are you looking at?

/ət/

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 form Weak form
u Butter / ‘bʌtə/ Autumn / ‘ɔ:təm/
e Settlement / ‘setlmənt Violet / ‘vaiələt/
or Mortgage / ‘mɔ:gidʒ/ Forget / fə‘get/
o Potato / pə’teitou/ Carrot / ‘kærət/
ar March /mɑ:t∫/ Particular /pə‘tikjulə/
a Character / ‘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.

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Nad Nanaça January 12, 2016
    • Anonymous March 30, 2016
  2. charles April 4, 2016
  3. Sami Bukhsh September 26, 2016

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