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How to convey messages by altering your tone? : English Pronunciation

How do you say one word in many different ways?

Intonation can signal statements and questions, and also helps to convey your intentions and attitude on the topic. Hence you can say the word, “ YES”, in many different pitches, and convey a different intention each time.

The best way to learn intonation is by listening to native speakers. So simple, yet so difficult to try! You need to socially expose yourself to many speakers on English to practice your intonation.

Intonation helps us manage the flow of conversation in two ways: Turn taking and changing the topic. There are FIVE BASIC pitch movement in the ENGLISH language.

5 pitch tones in English

Fall:This signals something certain or definite, often a statement of a fact.

Have you eaten? ( high)

No. ( fall)

Rise :This signals something is uncertain, or open ended. The person answering shows they are uncertain of the answer.

Did you know she was Greek? ( high)

No ( high)

Rise – Fall This is rare and can be an emphatic version of fall. The person who answers is being outraged at being accused of cheating.

Are you sure you didn’t cheat? ( high)

No ( low rise low)

Fall Rise This signals a strong statement, but in this occasion, there is some doubt in this speaker’s mind about their reply.

Did you hit your sister again? ( high)


Level Level at low pitch means the speaker is actively discouraging any further conversation. This indicates sullen, boredom, depression or lack of interest.

Level tone at mid pitch indicates speaker is still in thought. ( eg: NO…..)

Have you finished your homework yet? ( high)

No. ( level)

Try reading all of the above in varying intonation, as described above. Comment below as to which intonation was the most tricky.


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