All English–English dictionaries give a guide to the pronunciation of words. They include information about individual sounds and word stress

Most dictionaries will use the international phonemic alphabet to show the sounds of a word. Therefore, helping learners understand the symbols and the connection to sounds is useful. 

The other area dictionaries cover is word stress. This is usually indicated by a ‘ symbol just before the syllable that is stressed. This is important in English because, unlike many languages, the stress on a word is not always on the first syllable and the stress can change depending on the part of speech. For example: 

  • ‘photograph 
  • pho‘tography 
  • photo‘graphic 


  • ‘present (noun) 
  • pre‘sent (verb) 

Helping learners understand how dictionaries show word pronunciation can help learners improve their pronunciation by themselves. 


International phonemic alphabet: A type of alphabet which is used to represent sounds. 

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. For example, ‘how’ has one syllable, ‘clever’ has two syllables, and ‘photograph’ has three syllables.