Compound words such as “make-up”, “White House”, and “whiteboard”, are challenging for most foreign speakers. The reason these words are difficult is typically due to word stress.

When pronouncing compound nouns, STRESS the first word, or syllable. Do this by making that part of the word higher in pitch, the vowel longer and the word louder, while you say the unaccented word lower, shorter, and softer.

This is in contrast to how you would say the compound word as two words.

For example, we pronounce The “White House”, a compound word, where the president lives differently than we pronounce a “white” “house”, two words, where my parents live. Two words are pronounced with even stress.

Let’s look at these examples:

The president lives in the “WHITE house”. My parents live in a “white” “house”.
Write the math problems on the “WHITEboards”. The “white” “boards” make the room look bigger.

Learning proper word stress on compound words will greatly improve your clarity.