Author: British Council | Published on 2 January 2023


Learners of English often become confused when they see the same word, but in one sentence it’s a noun and in another sentence it’s used as a verb. With such words the stress becomes important when we are speaking. 

Say: ‘Listen to the words. What do you notice?’

Play the audio:

[play audio]

Don’t throw the refuse into the street.

He will refuse to play the game.

You need a permit for hunting.

Will you permit me to leave?

The Sahara is a big desert.

He decided to desert the army.

Elicit that if the word is a noun the stress is on the first syllable and if it’s a verb the stress is on the second syllable.

Play the next audio

[play audio]

refuse (noun)

refuse (verb)

permit (noun)

permit (verb)

desert (noun)

desert (verb)


Stress: Emphasis given to certain syllables in words. In English, stress is produced with a longer, louder and higher pitched sound than unstressed sounds.

Syllable: A single unit of speech which contains a vowel sound (e.g. 'how' has one syllable; 'clever' has two syllables; 'photograph' has three syllables).

See also