General English Level 4 V 3
UNIT 04 What happened? TOPIC 02 It was terrible
LANGUAGE FOCUS 03 Intonation
When we speak our voice rises (goes up) and falls (goes down), it does not stay the same. We call the sound of the voice rising or falling intonation. Intonation is the music of language.

1. Rising intonation

Rising intonation at the end of a question or statement lets the listener know that we are not sure.

Brad and Maureen say:
Brad:
So, were you worried?
Maureen:
Yes, a little…

 

Brad asks Maureen a question. The question is a yes/no question. Listen carefully to the question. You will hear the sound of Brad's voice rise (go up) at the end of the question.


When we ask a question with a yes/ no answer the intonation rises.

Brad and Maureen say:
Brad:
I see. There was a big fire here several years ago, wasn't there?
Dave:
Yes there was.

 

Brad is not sure if there was a fire or not. He asks a checking question, the answer is yes or no. His intonation rises.
We use rising intonation in the question tag, when we are checking.

Find out more about checking question tags.

Examples

1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button. Check your intonation.
Are you a student? No I'm not.
Can I ask you a question? Yes, of course.
Did you have a good time? Yes, it was fun.
You went to the party, didn't you? Yes, I didn't see you there.
She is married, isn't she? No she isn't.
Have you studied question tags? Yes I have.

 

2. Falling intonation

Falling intonation at the end of a question or statement lets the listener know we are sure.

Brad and Maureen say:
Brad:
So what did you do?
Maureen:
Well I ran into the house…

 

Brad asks Maureen a question. The question is a WH question. Listen carefully to the question. You will hear the sound of Brad's voice fall (go down) at the end of the question.


When we ask a question with who, where, when, what, which, why and how, the intonation falls.

Brad and Dave say:
Brad:
Dave, you and your wife were luckier, weren't you?
Dave:
Yes we were. Our home is okay.

 

Brad asks Dave about his house but he already knows the answer. He can see Dave's house is okay. Brad asks the question to get Dave to agree with him. His intonation falls. We use falling intonation in the question tag when we want the listener to agree with us.

Find out more about agreeing question tags.

Examples

1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button. Check your intonation.
What's your name?  
Where do you come from?  
When did you start the course?  
Why did you do that?  
How do you get to school?  
It's a nice day, isn't it? Yes it is.
It was hot yesterday, wasn't it? Yes it was.
Maureen lost her house, didn't she? Yes she did.

 

 

Now go to 04 SPEAKING Intonation.

 

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