So you've decided to learn English. Well, you've made a good choice! English is such a useful language in the world we live in, offering you the opportunity to speak to people all over the world. English seems to be easy for some and difficult for most. Why? Well, because it's weird, it doesn't make sense, and it has a ton of slang. You have to put in the work and are to be commended when you do.


Now, what if I were to tell you that you could instantly increase your vocabulary by learning one simple trick? I know, finally the good stuff. Well, here we go. There are many words in the English language that have two, three or even five meanings, depending on where you put the stress on the word. Learning these stress points will literally enable you to add two or three words to your vocabulary by learning just one word! The following is a list of commonly used examples to get you on your way:



  • /ˈædrɛs/ [US] (noun) the name of the place where you live
  • /əˈdrɛs/ [US] (verb) to direct a speech toward someone


(in the UK, both meanings are usually pronounced /əˈdrɛs/)



  • /əˈtrɪbjuːt/ (verb) to express that something was created by someone
  • /ˈætrɪbjuːt/ (noun) a characteristic of something



  • /ˈkɒmpækt/ [UK] (adj.) many things in a small space
  • /kəmˈpækt/ [UK] (verb) to compress



  • /ˈkɒmplɛks/ [UK] or /ˈkɑmplɛks/ [US] (noun) a (psychological) problem; or a collection of buildings
  • /kəmˈplɛks/ [UK, US] (adj.) not simple (sometimes it is pronounced the same as the noun)



  • /ˈkɒnflɪkt/ [UK] or /ˈkɑːnflɪkt/ [US] (noun) a disagreement
  • /kənˈflɪkt/ (verb) to be incompatible with



  • /kənˈsəʊl/ [UK] or /kənˈsoʊl/ [US] (verb) to make someone feel better
  • /ˈkɒnsəʊl/ [UK] or /ˈkɑːnsoʊl/ [US] (noun) a cabinet designed to stand on the floor; or a device for playing video games



  • /ˈkɒntɛnt/ [UK] or /ˈkɑntɛnt/ [US] (noun) the contained material
  • /kənˈtɛnt/ (adj.) satisfied



  • /dɪˈkriːs/ (verb) to become smaller
  • /ˈdiːkriːs/ (noun) a reduction



  • /ˈdiːteɪl/ (noun) something small or negligible enough
  • /dɪˈteɪl/ [US] (verb) to explain in detail


(in the UK the verb sounds the same as the noun)


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  • /ˈɛkstrækt/ (noun) something extracted
  • /ɪksˈtrækt/ (verb) to get something out of something else



  • /ˈɪmpækt/ (noun) a forceful collision
  • /ɪmˈpækt/ (verb) to affect



  • /ɪmˈplɑːnt/ [UK] or /ɪmˈplænt/ [US] (verb) to fix firmly; or to insert into the body
  • /ˈɪmplɑːnt/ [UK] or /ˈɪmplænt/ [US] (noun) something surgically implanted in the body



  • /ɪnˈkriːs/ (verb) to become larger
  • /ˈɪnkriːs/ (noun) an amount by which something increased



  • /ɪnˈsʌlt/ (verb) to offend someone
  • /ˈɪnsʌlt/ (noun) an action intended to be rude



  • /ˈɒbdʒɪkt/ [UK] or /ˈɑbdʒɪkt/ [US] (noun) an existing thing; or the goal of something
  • /əbˈdʒɛkt/ (verb) to disagree with something



  • /ˈpɜːfɪkt/ [UK] or /ˈpɜrfɪkt/ [US] (adj.) excellent; precise
  • /pəˈfɛkt/ [UK] or /pərˈfɛkt/ [US] (verb) to make perfect



  • /ˈprɛzənt/ (adj.) relating to now; or located in the vicinity; or (noun) the current period of time; a gift
  • /prɪˈzɛnt/ (verb) to show



  • /ˈprəʊɡrɛs/ [UK] or /ˈprɒgres/ [US] (noun) a development of something
  • /prəˈɡrɛs/ (verb) to advance



  • /ˈprɒdʒɛkt/ (noun) something planned
  • /prəˈdʒɛkt/ (verb) to plan something



  • /ˈrɛkɔːd/ [UK] or /ˈrɛkərd/ [US] (noun) an information put into a physical medium; or the extreme value of an achievement (in sport)
  • /rɪˈkɔːd/ [UK] or /rəˈkɔrd/ [US] (verb) to make a recording of something


Now that you've looked over the list, start with the words that you already know and practice stressing them the two ways. If you like to use flash cards, make a card for each meaning of the word with a stress indicator, I personally like to use capital letters. For example, PREsent, preSENT, etc.


Here are a few examples of some of these words used in sentences:



  • Have you bought a PREsent for mom and dad's anniversary yet? It's almost here. (noun meaning gift)
  • What did I miss? I wasn't PREsent for the meeting yesterday. (adjective meaning located in the vicinity)



  • I think that you will definitely get the job, you just have to preSENT yourself well. (verb meaning to show)



  • I just bought a new video game CONsole, I can't wait to see the graphics on this thing! (noun meaning video game unit)



  • Everyone has been trying to conSOLE me since I lost my dad, I just want to be left alone. (verb meaning to comfort)



  • My wife is and will always be the OBject of my affection. (noun meaning an existing thing)



  • I obJECT to these terms and conditions, they are completely unfair. (verb meaning disagree)


Confused yet? I know I would be if I were an English learner. Well, you'll be okay, and by knowing this little trick hopefully you will be able to instantly increase your vocabulary bringing you that much closer to fluency!


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Hero image by Liz West (CC BY 2.0)