I read this in American accent book:

"Place full stress on an adjective if it's not followed by a noun. If it is followed by a noun, stress the noun more."

For example I have this phrase: Have a good time. [hæ_və gʊd taɪm]

The context is something like this:

  1. I'm going to the party.
  2. Okay. Have a good time.

I would like to know when a native speaker pronounce the phrase above, does it really put the stress on the noun? I imagine the stress pattern to be something like this.

ˌHave a good ˈtime (low stress on have, higher stress on time) or

ˌHave a ˌgood ˈtime (low stress on have and good, higher stress on time)

Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thank you!

  • 1
    Any advice such as "Place full stress on an adjective ..." is generic and broad, with the caveat that unless the context requires otherwise. An overriding criterion is the semantic/ pragmatic significance within the sentence in the given context. Have a good time!
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


I definitely put a higher stress on 'time', as in the first case; however, the difference in stress between 'good' and 'time' are slight. In this particular example, my intonation is more prominent than my stress pattern - the more enthusiastic, the greater the difference between "have" (low) and "time" (high).

In a broader sense, in the case of an adjective-noun pair, I can only imagine stressing the adjective when placing deliberate emphasis: "No no, the blue book." For some reason, the related sentence, "Could you pass me the blue book?" sounds stiff and unnatural to me; I'd be far more likely to say, "Could you 'pass me that 'book over 'there?", with the emphasis on the words marked with an apostrophe.

  • 1
    Please see my comment at OP. You did note, though, that once size doesn't fit all.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 12:41

The rule you cite works fairly well for adjectives that are NOT followed by a noun:

  • I'm hungry.

  • This class is so boring.

  • This test has me confused.

It gets a little more complicated and perhaps more subject to personal variations when it comes to stressing with adjectives before nouns, particularly if they are stacked:

  • Oh, look at that cute little brown dog!

or modified by adverb(s):

  • This is the absolutely most horrible movie I have ever seen.

or composed of nouns:

  • Aviation industry wing strut welding standards...

So you sorta gotta listen to the cadence and tone of native speakers (stress is sometimes indicate tonally, although English is not generally considered a tonal language.) Some phrasings, even in prose, seem to have a natural preferred meter, like poetry.

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