Emphatic Stress

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Emphatic Stress

Emphatic stress may be used in a sentence to compare, connect, or clarify things. Usually emphatic stress singles out the word that the speaker considers the most important, and in this case even a function word may become stressed.

Emphatic stress is the placement of articulatory prominence or emphasis on a word in a sentence. In responding to questions on emphatic stress in examinations, interrogative sentences will be provided as options. The interrogative sentence that contradicts the emphasised word is the correct option.

See this example:

John’s watch is made of GOLD.

The emphatic stress is on the word ‘gold’


(a) Is John’s watch made of silver?

(b) Whose watch is made of gold?

(c) What is made of gold?

(d) Is John’s necklace made of gold?

Option [A] is the correct answer because the word ‘silver’ contradicts the word ‘gold’ and the interrogative statement provides a chance to re-emphasise the word ‘gold’.

 Is John’s watch made of silver? No, it is not made of silver; it’s made of GOLD.

Another example:

Last week’s football was very EXCITING.

(a) Was yesterday’s football match very exciting?

(b) Was last week’s tennis match very exciting?

(c) Was last week’s football match very dull?

(d) Was last week’s football training very exciting?

The correct option here is [c] because the interrogative statement gives a room for the speaker to re-emphasise the word ‘exciting’ as a response to this question.

Another example:

The question may also take this format:

She WORKS at the hospital                                              

(a) Who works at the hospital?

(b) Where does she work?

(c) Does she work at the hospital?

(d) What does she do at the hospital?

Option [D] is correct.

Another example:

The old man is a MESSENGER.

(a) Who is the messenger?

(b) Is the young man a messenger?

(c) Is the old woman a messenger?

(d) Is the old man a typist?

‘D’ is the correct option as it answers the question focusing on the emphatic word.

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