Category Archives: Pronunciation

Stressed Out?

By moving our sentence stress, we can change the emphasis of a sentence. I heard this great example from a friend:

“I never said she stole my money” can have seven different meanings according to the stressed word.

1. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it; someone else did.

2. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it, not even once.

3. I never said she stole my money – I never said it, but perhaps I wrote it or thought it.

4. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; somebody else did.

5. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; it was a gift.

6. I never said she stole my money – She stole someone else’s money.

7. I never said she stole my money – She stole something else.

Yeah, right!

We say it a lot. But did you know that you might be sending the wrong meaning?

“Yeah, right” is most often used in sarcastic comments by advanced English speakers:

  • Jay: Marcelo, did you know that my test score was better than yours?
  • Marcelo: Yeah, right. You can’t beat me! I got 100% plus three bonus marks.

However, most students use it to show agreement:

  • Livia: Amy, we are meeting at Pizza Palace at 5:30 tonight, right?
  • Amy: Yeah, right. See you tonight.

The problem comes when you speak to your Canadian friends. You think you are agreeing with them, like Amy above, but they think you are being sarcastic, like Marcelo’s example. To be safe, say either “yeah!” or “right!” to show you agree. You’ll be easier to understand and people will think you are more polite.

  • Naja: Does class start tomorrow at 9:30?
  • John: Yeah. See you then!
  • Simon: Right. Don’t forget your homework!

Pronunciation Grab Bag

Just a few common problems from class:

  • weigh sounds like way
  • weight sounds like wait
  • high sounds like hi
  • height rhymes with fight, not hate.
  • ant sounds like aunt.
  • sun sounds like son
  • won sounds like one.
  • Yacht rhymes with ought or bought
  • Enough rhymes with rough, not off
  • Elementary = ell a men tree. The strong syllable is MEN.
  • Hierarchy sounds like “hire are key.” The strong sound is on the “hi” of “hire.”
  • Receipt sounds like re-seat. The “p” is silent.
  • Muscles sounds like mussels. The “c” is silent.

Vocab Grab Bag

I heard it through the grapevine. This is an idiom that means ” I learned the information because I was gossiping.”

Coat and Quote are similar, but not the same. “Quote” starts with a /kw/ sound, but “coat” starts with only /k/.

“Software” and “hardware” are noncount. If you want to use count expressions, say “pieces of software,” “apps,” or “programs.” For “hardware,” say “computers,” “devices,” or “tablets/phones/laptops.”

Using Slang

Slang: this is a non-count noun. Please don’t use it a a count noun! “I would like to learn some slang.” is correct, but “I would like to learn some slangs.” is not.

“Slang” can also be an adjective: “I would like to learn some slang words.”

Some people think that “slang” always means “rude, impolite, dirty words.” This isn’t totally correct. While many swear words are slang, not all slang is rude. You might use slang at work. As examples, restaurant workers call a table for four people a “four-top,” and IT workers often call a desktop computer a “box.”

Jason: Hey Ritchie, is that four-top in your section ready for drinks yet?

Ritchie: Yeah, they want three light beers and a glass of red wine.

Liz: I can’t believe it. I just set up those six Windows boxes for the daycare yesterday, and they’re already broken! The children here have no respect!

Notes from Oil and Gas

Just a few notes on pronunciation and definitions today. “Platform” has two syllables: plat + form. Some say it with three: plat + a + form, but this is not correct.

“Equipment” has three syllables: e + quip + ment. Some say it with four: e + quip + a + ment, but this is also not correct. Be careful, because equipment is not a count noun.

“Seismic” has two syllables. It sounds like size + mick.

“Flesh out” is a separable phrasal verb. It means “to give detail or make something complete.”
“John, I like your proposal, but it is missing some information about the process. Can you flesh it out so I can understand the details better, please?”

“Legislation” is a formal word meaning “laws.” It’s a noncount noun.

“Pave the way” is an idiom that means “prepare for something else.” “Jane, your research really paved the way for my new discovery. It really helped me think about my work from a different point of view!”

Common Pronunciation Mix-Ups

Doubt and debit:

The ‘b’ in ‘doubt’ has no sound, just like the ‘b’ in ‘thumb’ or ‘dumb.’ ‘Doubt’ has the same vowel sound as ‘out.’ It’s only one syllable.

The ‘b’ in ‘debit,’ on the other hand, is pronounced. It’s a two-syllable word, and the first syllable is stressed.

‘Pronunciation’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘pronounce’ or ‘bounce.’ The first vowel sound is the same as in ‘one’ ‘fun,’ or ‘done.’