Compound Nouns

There are 2 stress patterns for nouns: 

Descriptions & Compound nouns

One of the first things you learn about intonation is that nouns carry the new information, and consequently, they carry the stress in a sentence.

Dogs eat bones.

But what if you have an adjective with the noun, or two nouns together -- which word do you stress?

In this case, you have to make a simple decision: Either stress the first word or the second word (rarely both). How do you know which one to stress? Well, if it is a description (with no contrast), skim over the adjective and stress the noun:

a nice guy
a big house
a good idea

If you have a two nouns that form a compound noun, stress the first word:

a hot dog
a notebook
a picture frame

This will explain why we say:

He lives in a white house.
He lives in the White House.

After you have mastered first-word or second-word stress, you can go on the more complex intonation:

It's a pot.
It's new.
It's a new pot.
It's brand new.
It's a brand new pot.
It's a tea pot.
It's a new tea pot.
It's a brand new tea pot.
It's a tea pot lid.
It's a new tea pot lid.
It's a brand new tea pot lid.


  Last Updated October 12, 2006