Importance of Intonation / Pitch Variation in English Pronunciation

What is intonation in English?


Intonation in English plays very important role for correct English pronunciation.
We can’t speak in a flat tone always. There is a rise and fall in our voice tone when we speak that creates a variation in our pitch.
Intonation is variation in spoken pitch which indicates the attitudes and emotions of the speaker. It is a significant variation in the pitch from one part of utterance to another.
When we speak our voice tends to rise, fall or remain flat depending on the meaning or feeling we want to convey. It can be surprise, anger, request, gratitude, order or question etc. Intonation, therefore, indicates the mood of the speaker. It is about how we say the things rather than than what we say.
There are various patterns to follow this rise and fall in our voice tone.
Here, I will discuss about two basic patterns of intonation in English. They are Rising intonation and Falling intonation.
In the following examples a downward arrow (➘) indicates a fall in intonation and an upward arrow (➚) indicates a rise in intonation.

Rising Intonation (➚)

In rising intonation the pitch of the voice rises at the end of a sentence.
It is normally used with yes/no questions, and question tags that are real questions.

• Yes/no Questions

These are the Questions that can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Do you like my ➚house?
Have you visited ➚India?
May I know your ➚name?
Do you have spare ➚room?
Do you watch ➚movies?

Questions tags:

Question Tags show uncertainty and require an answer (real questions).
We’re good friends , ➚aren’t we?
He likes you, ➚doesn’t he?
You’re a new teacher ➚aren’t you?
The story is interesting , ➚isn’t it?

Falling Intonation (➘)

In Falling Intonation the pitch of the voice falls at the end of the sentence.
Falling intonation is the most common intonation pattern in English.
It is commonly used in statements, commands, wh-questions (information questions),
confirmatory question tags and exclamations.

• Statements

I live here.➘
I’ll be back in an hour.➘
She doesn’t like you anymore.➘
He wants to buy a new house.➘
Here is my presentation report.➘
You can call me tomorrow.➘
He is planning to shift here. ➘

• Commands

Paste your photograph here.➘
Submit your answesheets. ➘
Keep these books there.➘
Shut the door.➘
Leave my room.➘
Complete your work by today.➘

Wh- questions

Wh- questions are the questions beginning with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘which’, and ‘how’ We use falling intonation while requesting information.
What is your name?➘
Where do you live?  ➘
When did they arrive?➘
Where will you study?➘
How many novels do you have?➘
Which is your favourite fruit?➘
How do you know her?➘


How nice of➘ you!
That’s just what I ➘need!
What an amazing ➘performance!
What a beautiful ➘voice!
That’s ➘wonderful!
To understand intonation or rise and fall in voice tone more appropriately, watch this video below.

If we have incorrect pattern of intonation while speaking, that can misconvey the meaning or can create confusion.
If you have rise at the end of a statement that sounds like a question.
For example:
Your name is Kate.➚
It sounds like a question.
If you say the same sentence with falling intonation , it will be an assertive sentence.
Your make is Kate.➘
We should have correct pitch variation to convey correct meaning and to pronounce correctly in English.
Do not skip an important post about word stress and its rules below which play very vital role for correct pronunciation in English.
word stress part-1

Word Stress Part-2

1 thought on “Importance of Intonation / Pitch Variation in English Pronunciation”

  1. Pingback: Intonation in English | Importance of pitch variation in English – Know More

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