Intonation in spoken English is the musical patterns of ups and downs in your speech.
In English, there are three intonation patterns:
These different musical patterns that convey different messages to your listener.
1. Finishing A Statement
Use the falling intonation pattern to tell the listener that you’re finished with a sentence.
Compare these sentences:
When you use the rising intonation, as in the second sentence, you’re telling the listener that you’re surprised. When you use the falling intonation, as in the first sentence, you are merely making a statement; reporting that his dog understands English.
2. Asking Yes/No Question
Use the rising intonation for asking a yes/no question.
3. Asking with WH Question Words
Use the falling intonation when asking with ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’.
4. Showing Surprise
Use the high/rising intonation to express surprise.
5. Requesting Clarification or Repetition
As an English language learner, you may sometimes have a hard time understanding a speaker. If you don’t understand everything that was said, you can use the rising intonation to let the speaker know that you require clarification.
X: I think I’ll go to the door.
Here are some phrases you can use to request clarification or repetition with the rising intonation if you don’t understand a speaker:
6. Making A List
Use a partial falling intonation when you’re making a list.
The intonation goes up on the two cities in the series ‘Paris’ and ‘New York’. To make yourself clear to the listener that you’re done with the list, use the falling intonation on ‘Tokyo’. That means ‘Tokyo’ would be the last city on your list.
Check out this video from Australia Plus to learn more on intonation and how it takes an important role in IELTS speaking test.