When a word has more than one syllable, one of the syllables is always a little louder than the others. The syllable with the louder stress is the accented syllable. The unstressed syllable usually takes the schwa sound.
It may seem that the placement of accents in words is often random or accidental, but these are some rules that usually work.
- Accents are often on the first syllable. Examples: ba'/sic, pro'/gram.
- In words that have suffixes or prefixes, the accent is usually on the main root word. Examples: box'/es, un/tie'.
- If de-, re-, ex-, in-, po-, pro-, or a- is the first syllable in a word, it is usually not accented. Examples: de/lay', ex/plore'.
- Two vowel letters together in the last syllable of a word often indicates an accented last syllable. Examples: com/plain', con/ceal'.
- When there are two like consonant letters within a word, the syllable before the double consonants is usually accented. Examples: be/gin'/ner, let'/ter.
- The accent is usually on the syllable before the suffixes -ion, ity, -ic, -ical, -ian, -ial, or -ious, and on the second syllable before the suffix -ate. Examples: af/fec/ta'/tion, dif/fer/en'/ti/ate.
- In words of three or more syllables, one of the first two syllables is usually accented. Examples: ac'/ci/dent, de/ter'/mine.