Confusing stress in similar words

A stressed syllable is part of a word which is pronounced louder and longer than the other parts of the word. The importance of word stress has been discussed in the previous 2 blog posts – Introduction to Word Stress and Unstressed Syllables. As mentioned in those posts, placing stress on the wrong syllable has the potential to cause misunderstandings.

Here are some specific examples of word pairs that sound the same or are very similar to each other, except for the fact that they have different syllable stress. Stress is what makes each word in the pair distinct from the other, and mixing up the stress on these words (or saying the words without a clear stress pattern) may cause confusion. Stressed syllables are in bold:


Dessert in the desert
Dessert in the desert
access excess
advantages advantageous
affect effect
comedy committee
decade decayed
desert dessert
eligible illegible
envelope envelop
moral morale
noble Nobel [as in Nobel prize]
rockets Rockettes
personal personnel


To be understood clearly, be sure to pronounce each word with the bolded syllables spoken slightly louder and for a slightly longer time than the surrounding syllables.

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