Saturday, 3 October 2009


A word will always have only one stress, if we hear two stresses then there are two words. The stress will always be in the vowel, never in a consonant.


A compound word is formed from two simple words in English. To pronounce them correctly is important, otherwise we could give the wrong message or even have a negative result.

*If you want to form and know what other compound words there are go in here

The stress can vary depending on which part of speech the word is:

  • COMPOUND NOUNS: This nouns can be formed by noun+noun or adjective+noun. In nouns the first part of the word gets the stress,for example:
bedroom /ˈbədruːm/
teapot /ˈtiːpɒt/

blackbird /ˈblækbɜːd/

·If it is an adjective+noun word the adjective is the stressed one:
greenhouse /ˈgriːnhɑʊs/
blackboard /ˈblækbɔːd/

·When it is a compound phrase of adjective+noun we will stress the noun:
green house /griːn/ /ˈhɑʊs/
black board /blæk/ /ˈbɔːd/

·If the word has three syllables then the stress will be in the first or second syllable, never in the third:
grandmother /ˈgrændˌmʌðəʳ/
newspaper /ˈnjuːspeɪpəɾ/

  • COMPOUND ADJECTIVES:in the adjectives formed by two words the stress is in the second adjective ,such as: bad-tempered /bæd/ /ˈtempəʳ/
oldfashioned /ˌəʊldˈfæʃ.ənd/

  • COMPOUND VERBS: they are not the same as phrasal verbs. This type of verbs have the stress in the second part of the word, an example of this are verbs:
to understand /ˌʌndəˈstænd/
to overFLOW /ˌəʊvəˈfləʊ/
This kind of verbs are usually formed by a verb and a preposition.
In this case the stress is on the preposition. The correct pronunciation of phrasal verbs is important because sometimes there are compound nouns which are alike them, for example:

-takeover /ˈteɪkˌəʊvəʳ/.-when a company gets control of another company.

-take over /teɪk/ /ˈəʊvəʳ/.- to become more successful or powerful than something or someone else that is involved in the same type of activity

·When the compound verb is with three words, the stress goes in the second word:
get OUT of
keep UP with

As you can see in the transcription the stress is marked according to the rule, if it is a noun, an adjective, a compound verb or a phrasal verb, etc.

*If you want to test your knowledge about where the stress goes in compound words click here

*If you want to practice your listening on compound words and distiguishing them from phrasal verbs,go to this link



  1. "A word will always have only one stress"

    I think this is not entirely accurate because some words have two stresses: a main stress and a secondary one. You should not omit that piece of information -- even when it only applies to longer words.

  2. Thanks for your post Nataly - you explain the topic clearly and the links are very useful!

    And thanks, Francisco, for pointing out the difference between primary and secondary stresses. If we look at the word 'grandmother', above, we can see that the secondary stress is marked just before the 'm'.

    One thing to note regarding stress patterns in compound nouns is that the primary stress always falls on the first word, regardless of whether it is adjective+noun or noun+noun.