I am a non-native English speaker and I recently learned about "stressed syllables". As a non-native speaker, I mostly cannot find stressed syllable while reading English text.

My goal is to read English poetry and be able to correctly find stressed and unstressed syllables.

Can you recommend me a solution or a technique that I can use to easily identify stressed syllables?

I will really appreciate all help. Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Requests for resources should be asked (and many can be found) at our meta site. May 11, 2020 at 18:33
  • The stress is part of the pronunciation. If you want to speak English and be understood, you need to know which syllables to stress. Dictionaries will tell you where it is. It is sometimes possible to guess it from the spelling, but even native English speakers often get it wrong for words they don't know. May 11, 2020 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


First off, a note about stressed syllables: all languages have them. They may, however, vary in their rules for them. A note about stressed syllables in English: the words themselves do not completely determine which syllables are stressed. A speaker may CHOOSE (<- stressed syllable) to stress a syllable in order to convey a certain emphasis.

That said, it depends on what kind of poetry you want to read. If you don't care what kind, the easy answer is to read from the large body of English poetry that is written in iambic pentameter/tetrameter. Pretty much all of Shakespeare's work is in iambic pentameter, so that is a good place to start. In iambic pentameter, there are 10 syllables per line, every odd syllable (1st, 3rd, etc.) is unstressed, and every even one is. So you have a rule to tell you which ones are stressed, and you can try to find a way to hear the words according to that rhythm. Note that the rules aren't always strictly followed, and some of the stress patterns that result sometimes bend the natural rhythm of English.

With more free verse poetry, it is a bit more complicated, and probably requires more knack for the music of English. Perhaps a good place to start is with recorded poetry. Another piece of advice would be to let your focus slip a little and let the words form themselves into phrases in your mind as they like.

  • Cool, thank you. So the idea is to read a lot to learn it. What other poets do you recommend who follow iambic pentameter? Thanks so much again. May 11, 2020 at 19:21

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