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Having Trouble Getting Native English Speakers to Understand You? These Tips Will Help!

It’s SO frustrating when you know you are saying the correct words in conversation, but you are still struggling to make yourself understood!

Don’t get upset, embarrassed or offended, though. Sometimes it just takes a few small changes to where you place stress or intonation in a sentence to help a native speaker understand what you mean.

Here are some things you can try to help you use stress correctly:

Pay Attention to Syllable Stress



Placing stress on the correct syllable is very important for getting people to understand you in English. If you are struggling, in many cases is will be because the stress is in the wrong place!

If you’re not sure where to place the stress, it’s generally safest to stress the first syllable. For example: Having trouble getting native speakers to understand you?

Also, longer English words tend to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables, for example: understand or conversation. 

Stress the Most Important Words

Usually, the most important words in the sentence are emphasised, too. The words you emphasise show the other person what point you are trying to make.

For example, take this sentence: I think it will be faster if we take the train

Depending on why you are saying this, you would change the world that you emphasise.

For example, if you and your friend are trying to figure out whether the train or the bus will be faster, you might say:

“I think it will be faster if we take the train

This is because you want to emphasise that the train is the answer to the question. It’s the most important word.

Now imagine that your friend thinks you should get the bus because it’s cheaper, but you want to get there quickly. In this sentence, being fast is more important to you, so you emphasise that word:

“I think it will be faster if we get the train”

Now imagine that you are trying to figure out which journey will be faster, but you aren’t completely sure. In this situation you would emphasise the word “think” because you want to be clear that you don’t know for certain:

“I think it will be faster if we take the train”

Whichever word you choose to emphasise, a native English speaker will think that this is the point of the sentence. If they are confused by what you mean, it is probably because you are emphasising the wrong one!

Don’t Stress the Small Stuff (Unless You are Making a Point)

Joining words like and, to, from, is, or, a, at, it, in, on etc. are usually unstressed and rushed over quickly. The exception to this is when these words are very important to the meaning of the sentence, for example when you are correcting something that someone has said.


“Would you like milk or sugar in your tea?”

“Please can I have milk and sugar?”

“Are you going to London?”

“No, we’re coming from London”

Again, if you emphasise a conjunction word, people will assume that this is the most important word in the sentence, so they will get confused if it isn’t!

We hope this helps! If you would like to improve your conversational English even more, check out our range of courses at www.Eurocentres.com