1. Monosyllabic words, such as come, go, sit etc., are usually stressed since they can’t be divided into different syllables.
2. Numbers that end in “ty” are stressed on the first syllable while numbers that end in “teen” have their stress on the second syllable. For example, “sixty” has its stress on first syllable (SIXty) while “sixteen” has its stress on the second syllable (sixTEEN).
3. Most bisyllabic nouns and adjectives are usually stressed on the first syllable.
Examples: BAS-tard, PRE-tty, CLE-ver, DOC-tor, STU-dent etc.
However, there is an exception to this rule, and you have to learn these words by heart: ho-TEL, ex-TREME, con-CISE etc.
4. Bisyllabic verbs and prepositions are usually stressed on the second syllable. Examples: be-LOW, a-BOUT, a-BOVE, be-TWEEN, a-SIDE, pre-SENT, re-PLY, ex-PORT etc.
5. Some words in English language function as both nouns and verbs. When such words function as noun, the stress is usually on the first syllable, and as verbs, the stress is usually on the second syllable.
i. PRE-sent (a gift) vs. pre-SENT (to give something formally to someone).
ii. RE-fuse (garbage) vs. re-FUSE (to decline).
iii. SU-spect (someone who the police believe may have committed a crime) vs. su-SPECT (to believe that something is true, especially something bad).
However, this is not always the case. For example, the word “respect” has its primary stress on the second syllable both when it’s a verb and a noun.
6. Six syllable words ending in “tion” are usually stressed on their fifth syllable. Examples: per-so-ni-fi-CA-tion, ca-pi-ta-li-SA-tion, i-ni-tia-li-SA-tion etc.
7. Three syllable words ending in “ly” often have their stress on the first syllable. Examples: OR-der-ly, QUI-et-ly etc.
8. Words ending in “ic”, “sion” and “tion” are usually stressed on the second-to-last syllable. In this case, you are to count the syllables backward in order to get the second-to-last syllable. Examples: cre-A-tion, com-MI-ssion, au-THEN-tic etc. However, there are times when you need to count the syllable forward in order to get the second-to-last syllable. Examples: pho-to-GRA-phic, a-ccom-mo-DA-tion, ex-CUR-sion etc.
9. Words ending in “cy”, “phy”, “al”, “ty” and “gy” are usually on the third-to-last syllable. You should also the count the syllables backward to get the third syllable. Examples: de-MO-cra-cy, pho-TO-gra-phy, CLI-ni-cal, a-TRO-si-ty, psy-CHO-lo-gy etc.
10. Most compound nouns (a word made up of two or more nouns) have their stress on the first noun. Examples: PLAYground, BLACKboard, FOOTball, KEYboard etc.
Compound verbs (a verb made up of two or more words) and compound adjectives (an adjective that is made up of two or more adjectives, which are linked together by a hyphen) usually have their stress on the second word or syllable.
outRIDE (compound verb).
outSHINE (compound verb).
old-FA-shioned (compound adjective).
In sum, the identification of the stressed syllables of English words is not an easy task; it is a process that requires a lot of practice and repetition as there are many rules and exceptions. For native speakers, this wouldn’t be a problem, but for non-native speakers of the language, the reverse is always the case. Therefore, the latter should immerse themselves in the enlightening dew of word stress through constant practice in order to be fortified.