Part 4:Pausing at Appropriate Places in a Sentence
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When we speak English, we generally can say roughly 6-8 words before we begin to run out of breath. This number may be lower if we use longer multi-syllabic words frequently and may be higher if we speak quickly. We tend to “chunk” or group words together in a sentence, especially when the sentence is long. Pausing allows us to take a quick breath of air if we need one and to separate bits of information. Separating information into smaller chunks helps people understand our speech better.
Many pubic speakers pause often when speaking. They use pausing as a way to give their audience time to process important information, to think about what they’ve said, and to keep their pace slow.
When we pause, our voice stops very briefly with a rising pitch. This upward pitch signals to the listener that we have more to say. Depending on how much we want to emphasize the last word before the pause will determine exactly how we stress it.
Pitch Patterns That Indicate Pausing
Let's take a look at the two different pitch patterns we have when we pause in a sentence. Two- pitch pausing pattern If the last word before a pause is not extremely important, we tend to lower our pitch for that word and then raise it to indicate a pause. The pitch pattern in this case consists of two pitches: down and then up.
Let's look at an example: In the word "person", we would normally say it by raising our pitch on the first syllable "PER" and then lowering our pitch on the second syllable "son", so that it sounds like "PER-son."
Let's use the word "person" again to show how we would use the two-pitch pattern for pausing. Instead of raising our pitch for the stressed syllable "per", we will lower our pitch. Instead of lowering our pitch for the last syllable "SON", we will raise our pitch. This is the exact opposite of how we would normally say this word. So, instead of saying "PER-son", it becomes "per-SON."
Let's practice this a few times in the following words and sentences. Go: I want to go, but not right now. Together: Let’s work together, so that we can finish this project. Work: John has to work, but will be home early. Surprised: He was surprised, but not scared. Slowly: The old man walked slowly, but carefully.
Three-pitch pausing pattern The other pitch pattern for pausing consists of three pitches.
If the last word before the pause is important, we naturally want to emphasize it. In this case, we use three pitches when we say the word. This makes the word before the pause stand out more, making it sound more important.
Let's take a look at how this pitch pattern works:
First, we would say the word just before the pause as we normally would, which means your pitch would go up to stress and then down to end the word. For example, "PER-son". The word "person" has two syllables, with the first syllable "per" being stressed. My pitch goes up to say the first syllable "per" and then down for the second unstressed syllable "son."
So far, we have two pitches: up and then down. Now stretch the last vowel of the word, "person", which is the "uh" sound, and raise your pitch, so it sounds like "PER-so ON". This creates our three-pitch pattern: up, down up.
Let's practice this three pitch pausing pattern in the following words and sentences. Go: I want to go, but not right now. Together: Let’s work together, so that we can finish this project. Work: John has to work, but will be home early. Surprised: He was surprised, but not scared. Slowly: the old man walked slowly, but carefully.
Keeping the two-pitch and three-pitch pausing patterns in mind, let’s now take a look at when it is appropriate to pause. We will be using both pitch patterns in our examples.
When it is appropriate to pause?
First, we always pause at a comma. There is no exception to this rule.
Second, we speak in phrases and often pause when there is no punctuation. There are many instances when we speak when we pause, and there is no comma. In this section you will learn to recognize when it is appropriate to pause and which word groups should stay together.
Let's first talk about pausing at a comma. 1. Pausing at a comma. Read the following examples. The (/) represents when a pause is appropriate. For each section, you will be practicing the two-pitch and three-pitch pausing patterns.
a. Pausing after a phrase in a complex sentence: Example 1
Two pitches: Because I was late for work, /I missed an important meeting.
Three pitches: Because I was late for work,/ I missed an important meeting.
Two pitches: In the middle of the night/, my dog barked.
Three pitches: In the middle of the night/, my dog barked.
b.Pausing before a conjunction: A conjunction is a connecting word, for example: and, if, so, or, but Example 1
Two pitches: I want to go to the movies, /but not until 7pm.
Three pitches: I want to go to the movies,/ but not until 7pm.
Two pitches: John didn’t like the movie/, but he liked the play.
Three pitches: John didn’t like the movie/, but he liked the play
c.Pausing after an adverb or adverb phrase at the beginning of a statement. Example 1
Two pitches: Recently/, I bought a new car.
Three pitches: Recently/, I bought a new car.
Two pitches: Last Monday morning/, I gave a presentation.
Three pitches: Last Monday morning/, I gave a presentation.
d.Pausing when listing items: When you have more than one item listed, the pitch goes up on all items listed until the last one, when it is stressed normally. In this instance, the two-pitch pausing pattern is used most often. Example 1
Two pitches: I bought milk/, bread/, and eggs today.
Three pitches: I bought milk/, bread/, and eggs today.
Two pitches: I dropped my books, paper, and backpack the other day.
Three pitches: I dropped my books, paper, and backpack the other day.
e.Pausing when listing phrases: Follow the same guidelines as for stressing single items. Example 1
Two pitches: We go to the movies/, run errands/, have parties/, and take trips often.
Three pitches: We go to the movies/, run errands/, have parties/, and take trips often.
Two pitches: Mary enjoys taking hikes, swimming in the pool, and walking along the beach.
Three pitches: Mary enjoys taking hikes, swimming in the pool, and walking along the beach.
Combining two-and three-pitch patterns in long, complicated sentences. In longer, more complex sentences, there may be more than one pause. In these cases, you may find times when there is a combination of two-pitch and three-pitch pausing patterns.
Let's take a look at a couple of examples Example 1:Early on Monday morning/, Ed/, my gardener/, mowed my lawn. Example 2:I like taking walks on the beach in early morning, because at that time the beach is deserted, and it looks beautiful.
Exercises Practice the following sentences, pausing at the comma. Try each sentence twice, one using two pitches and one using three pitches for pausing. 1.In the middle of the night,/ we heard a loud sound. 2.All of a sudden, /my dog barked. 3.Last week, /I had an important meeting. 4.Please buy me some paper, a pen, and a notebook for school. 5.Recently, /I found a kitten. 6.I really enjoyed the play, but didn’t care for the main actor. 7.Last week, we saw lots of friendly animals at the zoo. 8.Wear your sunglasses, and don’t forget to bring your hat. 9.In 2005, I bought my first laptop. 10. When I was a little girl, I enjoyed riding my bike.
Pausing when a comma is not needed
2. We sometimes need to pause when there is no comma. Here are some places in a sentence where it is appropriate to pause when no comma is needed. a.We pause before a prepositional phrase: A prepositional phrase contains a preposition such as "in", "under", "on" and a noun phrase. Example 1: in the mountains
Two pitches: I enjoy hiking/ in the mountains.
Three pitches: I enjoy hiking/ in the mountains.
Example 2: under the bed
Two pitches: The dog was hiding/ under the bed.
Three pitches: The dog was hiding/ under the bed.
b.After a short compound subject: A compound subject is more than one subject in a sentence. Example 1: all my brothers and sisters
Two pitches: All my brothers and sisters/ are coming to visit soon.
Three pitches: All my brothers and sisters/ are coming to visit soon.
Example 2: the little kittens and puppies
Two pitches: The little kittens and puppies/ were so adorable.
Three pitches: The little kittens and puppies/ were so adorable.
c.Separating a compound subject: If the subject contains two phrases, you can pause between them. Example 1: all of my brothers and some of my sisters
Two pitches: All of my brothers/ and some of my sisters/ are here.
Three pitches: All of my brothers/ and some of my sisters/ are here.
Example 2: most of the pens and some of the pencils
Two pitches: Most of the pens/ and some of the pencils/ fell on the floor.
Three pitches: Most of the pens/ and some of the pencils/ fell on the floor.
d.After a subject that has adjectives to describe it: When describing a subject, we sometimes use several words. You can pause after the subject if you wish Example 1: the very talented performer
Two pitches: The very talented performer /danced for one hour.
Three pitches: The very talented performer /danced for one hour.
Example 2: the cute little girl
Two pitches: The cute little girl/ was eating chocolate ice cream.
Three pitches: The cute little girl/ was eating chocolate ice cream.
e.Before the conjunction “because”: The conjunction “because” is the only conjunction that doesn’t usually have a comma before it. Example 1
Two pitches: He likes jogging/ because it’s fun.
Three pitches: He likes jogging/ because it’s fun.
Two pitches: I don’t like that dog/ because he’s mean.
Three pitches: I don’t like that dog/ because he’s mean.
f.Before “and” when a simple sentence contains a compound verb (more than one verb).Example 1
Two pitches: John enjoys going shopping /and always has a good time.
Three pitches: John enjoys going shopping /and always has a good time.
Two pitches: Mary works hard/ and does a great job.
Three pitches: Mary works hard/ and does a great job.
Word groups that should not be separated
The following are examples of word groups that we should not separate in a sentence. 1.Don’t separate a noun phrase: A noun phrase is made up of a noun and words to describe it. Example: The little girl
Two pitches: The little girl /ran to me.
Three pitches: The little girl /ran to me.
Exercises Practice the following sentences with noun phrases. 1.My favorite professor/ left our college /last fall. 2.The very large quarter horse/ competed very well. 3.That amazingly small kitten/ jumped down the step. 4.Extremely large dogs/ can be very frightening. 5.The antique oak dresser /is perfect for us
2.Don’t separate an auxiliary verb from the main verb: Auxiliary verbs are also called “helping verbs” and are forms of the verbs “to do” (do/does/did), “to be” (am/is/are/was/were/will), and “to have” (have/has/had). The helping verb comes just before the main verb in the sentence. Could, should, and would, which are called modal verbs are also helping verbs. Example 1: am going
Two pitches: I am going/ to the store.
Three pitches: I am going/ to the store.
Example 2: was watching
Two pitches: Mary was watching/her favorite show on television.
Three pitches: Mary was watching/her favorite show on television.
Example 3: could go
Two pitches: I could go/ if you wanted me to.
Three pitches: : I could go/ if you wanted me to.
Exercises Practice the following sentences with helping verbs. 1.You’re coming with us/when we go to the movies. 2.I am not going home/ until after 10pm. 3.We are going home now, / so we will see you tomorrow. 4.Mary has been ice skating her entire life/ and is very good at it. 5.We have been walking /for two hours.
3.Do not separate verb phrases: A verb phrase is a verb with an adverb that comes right after it. Example 1: walked quickly
Two pitches: He walked quickly/ past us.
Three pitches: He walked quickly past us.
Example 2: danced well
Two pitches: The dancers danced well/ in the competition.
Three pitches: The dancers danced well/ in the competition.
Exercises Practice the following sentences with verb phrases. 1.She yelled loudly/ at the mailman. 2.Mary walked quickly/ out of the store. 3.She drives frequently/ in the winter. 4.We ski all the time/ in Colorado. 5.Jack fell suddenly/ on the sidewalk.
4.Do not separate prepositional phrases: A prepositional phrase is a phrase that begins with a preposition and has a noun phrase after it. Example 1: at the store
Two pitches: I saw you/ at the store.
Three pitches: I saw you/ at the store.
Example 2: under the table
Two pitches: Please pick up the ball/ under the table.
Three pitches: Please pick up the ball/ under the table.
Exercises Practice the following sentences with prepositional phrases. 1.You are driving to the mall today. 2.I found my socks/ under the bed. 3.My book was in my car/ this whole time. 4.Coco always jumps/ on my bed. 5.I like to travel/ to different countries.
Practice sentences for pausing
Practice saying the following statements, pausing at appropriate places. Slashes have been inserted to show where pausing can occur. 1. In the middle of the night/, we heard a loud sound. 2. Usually/, I like staying up late at night. 3. Please pick up some milk/, cereal/, and juice/ at the store for me. 4. All of a sudden/, our manager left the room. 5. At five o’clock/, we are all going out /for a drink. 6. We can go/, if you insist. 7. My family and I /want to go on a trip/, but we are having a difficult time /agreeing on a place to go. 8. Suddenly/, I noticed a truck /out of control /on the highway. 9. Once in a while/, my dog/, for some unknown reason/, starts chasing cars. 10. I don’t understand /why it is /that you insist on doing that /all the time. 11. Out of the blue/, the fisherman /fell overboard /without warning. 12. I think there is a good chance /I’ll get picked for the lead role /in the play. 13. My six-year old daughter and her friends /all went out for pizza /after the soccer game /on Saturday morning. 14. In the early evening/, I like to take a walk after dinner /with my husband. 15. If I have to take one more phone call, /I think I’m going to scream. 16. All of my friends /enjoy hiking in the woods /on weekends. 17. Sometimes/, my family and I /like to take walks after dinner. 18. On weekends/, I usually enjoy going to the movies /and out for dinner. 19. As a matter of fact/, John, our new neighbor/, has three daughters. 20. If you wouldn’t mind/, I could use a hand/ carrying these groceries/ into the house.
Practice story for pausing
Listen to the following paragraph, and then try reading it by yourself. Use appropriate pausing in the sentences, as outlined in the guidelines above. My grandmother, who was born in Ireland, came to this country when she was just a little girl. Her father worked in construction, while her mother stayed home to raise the children. At that time, life was tough, and everyone had to do their part. My grandmother told us stories about all the chores each child in her family had to do, and how difficult life was. Back when she was little, there were no washing machines or automatic dishwashers to make life easy. Everything had to be done by hand, and that took time. In addition to doing chores, each child in the family had to go to school. Every evening, all the children in her family did their homework before going to bed. Homework, of course, began when all of the chores were completed. For entertainment, the family would sit around the radio and listen to stories and shows, because there was no television in those days. Even though life was hard when my grandmother was a little girl, she had very fond memories. She actually told me once that she preferred her life as a child to the high tech. world of today.