Intonation - English Oral Skills Notes

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  • It is the rise and fall of voice in speaking.
  • Intonation is crucial for communication.
  • In English there are basically two kinds of intonation: rising and falling.
  • We can use arrows to show the intonation – whether rising or falling. represents falling intonation while represents the rising one.
  • Intonation can be used to manipulate statements; changing them into questions, expressing certainty, politeness, doubts etc.
    • Her name is Mary. (falling) certain
    • Her name is Mary. (rising) doubting.
    • Have you had your lunch? (falling) polite
    • Have you had your lunch? (rising) indifferent

Falling Intonation

  • Falling intonation is when we lower our voice at the end of a sentence.
  • This usually happens in:
    1. Statements, for example,
      • I likebananas.
      • It is nice working with you.
      • She travelled toEldoret.
    2. W/H Questions (Questions that do not require a yes/no answer)
      • What is your name?
      • Where do you live?
      • How old areyou?
      • Who is this youngman?
    3. Commands
      • Get out now.
      • Give me the money.
      • Close your books.
    4. Exclamatory sentences e.g.
      • What a wonderful present!
      • How nice of you
    5. Falling intonation is also used in a list to show that you have reached your final item. E.g.
      • ↗ One, ↗ two,↗ three, ↗ four,↘ five.




Rising Intonation

  • When we raise our voice.
  • Used in:
    1. General Questions (mostly those that require a yes/no answer) e.g.
      • Do you visit themoften?
      • Have you seen her?
      • Are you ready to start?
      • Could you give me apen, please?
    2. Alternative questions e.g.
      • Do you want coffee or tea?
      • Does he speakKiswahili or English?
    3. Before tag questions e.g.
      • This is a beautiful place, isn’t it?
      • She knowshim,doesn’t she?
    4. Enumerating e.g.
      • One, two,three, four,five.
      • She bought bread, cheese, oranges, and apples.
    5. Rising intonation is also used when you call for the attention of someone. E.g.
      • Sheila? (rising) Hey (rising)


Using an arrow, determine whether rising or falling intonation is used in the sentences.

  1. This music sounds good.
  2. I love watching horror movies.
  3. My sister’s name is Amina.
  4. Blue is my favourite colour.
  5. Is that tv good?
  6. Do you like that movie?
  7. Are you hungry?
  8. Get me my shoes.
  9. Study your lessons now.
  10. Are you insane?
  11. How many more hours before you are done with your work?
  12. Which novel is the best for you?
  13. He is a little bit nervous, isn’t he?
  14. You should listen to your parents’ advice.
  15. Did you finish your homework?
  16. Water is good for the body.
  17. This is good!
  18. What a crazy show.
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