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How to speak with emphasis – some different options

One thing you do want to learn to do for  IELTS speaking is to know how to speak emphatically. This is particularly important for when you want to to say you really like or dislike something.

If you don't emphasise anything when you speak you sound boring. Adding emphasis adds meaning to what you say.


How to speak with emphasis

In this lesson I give you a quick guide to some of the ways you can do this and then show you some places where you can find out more and learn some of the grammar you need.

The first step is to see that there are lots of different ways to of this. Some are shown in my introduction:

sentence structures/openings: one thing ...

use of auxiliary verbs: you do want to learn 

use of adverb/adjective combinations: particularly important

use of adverb/verb combinations: really like

These are mostly little things - but enough little things done well can really make a difference.

1. Start your answer/sentence strongly

When you want to stress something the first thing you say is important - it's the first thing the examiner hears. We have several structures in English that we use to show that what we are about to say is important.

One way they can work is that we start the sentence with a short phrase saying that what follows is important. See how this "normal: statement can be change into something much stronger:

I like the peace and quiet in my neighbour hood [no emphasis]

What I  like most in my neighbourhood is the peace and quiet.

One thing that I enjoy about my neighbourhood is the peace and quiet.

Making it work - think pronunciation

If you really want to get this right, you don't just need to use this type of structure, you also need to use your voice. Put simply, you choose a few words to stress more than others. How you do this varies, but you should see above that we often stress the first and last words in a sentence when we are being emphatic.

2. Do and did and other auxiliary verbs

What is the present simple of the verb to like? Sometimes it is

I do like 

You do like etc

We do this when we want to be more emphatic. See this example:

Do you enjoy your job?

I  enjoy my job [no emphasis]

I do enjoy my job [emphasis - you're now going to say exactly why]

We can do this with almost any auxiliary verb in English. But to make it work you need to be able to use short forms too. See this

I've been to the USA [short form showing no emphasis - the way we normally speak]

I have been to the USA [stressed long form - unusual to show special emphasis]

Pronunciation again

Just as before it helps to use your voice to stress the words in bold - this time it's the auxiliary verbs.

3. Adverbs with adjectives

In English we very often use adverbs with adjectives - it's a common pattern you want to notice and learn from. We use the structure mostly when we want to emphasise something.

There a number of words we use in this way - some of the most common are






So we can be emphatic in this way:

The park where I live is beautiful [no emphasis]

The park where I live is especially beautiful [emphasis]

A grammatical problem

One problem with this is that in English we make a difference between adjectives that are gradable and non-gradable. Put simply this means we can say

absolutely boiling

fairly old

but not

absolutely old

fairly boiling

This can be a little tricky and you'll find a link at the bottom of the page with more help.

4. Adverbs with verbs

We do of course use adverbs with verbs too in the same way. We very often use these with "simple" verbs such as "like" to add meaning to what we say.

Some very common adverbs we use this way are:





a bit

a lot

Don't worry that they look simple. These really are words that native speakers use all the time in speech. You are communicating a lot more when you change

I like my home town


I quite like my home town.

A problem with quite

Quite is one of those problem words that can mean two almost completely different things - it can mean completely or slightly! This is too complex to example here, but it isn't a word to avoid - it's too common for that. take a look at the link from BBC English at the bottom of there page.

Where to learn more

In this lesson I have just shown you some options. To get them right you need to practise and learn more of the grammar. Here are some places to start:



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One Response to How to speak with emphasis – some different options

  1. Vahid November 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Hi Dominic

    I am going to use American English in IELTS speaking. I think adverb “quite” is common in British English. So, what is your idea about use of this adverb in American English?


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