How to use INTONATION in American English to show EMOTION

In this article, you’re going to learn how to use intonation in American English to show emotion so people can understand you clearly when you’re expressing emotion about something.

Learning English is not an easy task in itself, but the real challenge can be learning American English pronunciation and acquiring fluency to be able to speak English naturally.

When you’re learning English, you learn not only what to say but also how to say it. To do this, you should learn specific language tools that help you to convey your message clearly, and intonation is one of them. But what is intonation?

Definition of Intonation

Like any other language, English has its own melody called intonation, meaning the rise and fall of your voice when you speak.

Intonation helps you to convey meaning through the pitch of voice. It can be as important as words because we also communicate different meanings through intonation.

Using a rising or falling intonation can change the meaning of what you’re saying, especially when you’re trying to express different emotions and attitudes.

To use intonation when speaking American English, you need to identify the variety of emotions that native speakers express with the tone of their voice in their daily conversations.

With this article, ChatterFox is going to help you to improve your American English pronunciation by using intonation to express your emotions.

Use of Intonation in Showing Emotions

There are two types of intonation: rising and falling. Rising intonation is when the pitch of your voice goes up at the end of the sentence. However, falling intonation happens when you lower the pitch of your voice while finishing your sentence.

In American English, rising and falling intonations can have different meanings, especially in showing emotions. For example, when you’re expressing an emotion that has high energy, you will use rising intonation to show this energy.

However, if you want to express low energy, you will lower the pitch of your voice by using falling intonation.

For a better understanding, let’s read the following sentences and compare their intonations:

  • I can’t wait to go to the beach this summer! ↑
  • I really don’t wanna go on this work trip tomorrow. ↓

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As you also noticed, the first sentence has an exciting emotion, so we use rising intonation to express this excitement. On the contrary, the second sentence has lower energy about going on a work trip; as a result, we use falling intonation.

Now, let’s practice again with another example. Imagine you’re in a restaurant and want to express your opinion about their food:

  • The food here is amazing! ↑ (I really liked the food.)
  • The food here is alright. ↓ (The food was OK but not great.)

For the next example, imagine someone invites you to do something, you can say:

  • Thanks, I’d love to! ↑(I’m really excited to do it.)
  • I’m not sure if I can. / Let me see, I might be busy. ↓(In fact, I don’t want to do it.)

INTONATION in American English

Now …

Could you catch the difference between these sentences? As you can see, when we want to express our excitement about something, it can be good or bad, we use rising intonation to be clearer about it.

However, if we’re not excited to do something or don’t have much energy about it, we use falling intonation to express our emotions or opinion. Once you develop your sensitivity of understanding and using intonation in speaking, you’ll be able to build healthy and enjoyable conversations and improve your social skills with the people in the USA.


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