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Hyper Reading and Speaking in the English Language PART 4: Thought Groups

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Can we really think out load if we do not know where to pause while thinking?

Can we really think out load if we do not know where to pause while thinking?

The Power of Pause Stations --- Thought Groups

This will be the final aspect and skill you will have to learn to develop hyper reading and speaking in English. This is called THOUGHT GROUPS.

Thought groups are “a group of approximately two to five words that form a unit of meaning. A thought group can also be called a phrase” (Smith et al., 1992). In speech delivery, however, these are more breathing space or pause stations, especially when reading long compound-complex sentences that cannot be done in one breath. Imagine reading a 50-word sentence; you will surely need some breathing space since your air might run out by the 30th or 40th word. This is where thought groups come in handy. Pause stations form units of meaning. If you have tried reading a long paragraph or even just a sentence yet eventually find it difficult to understand, chances are, you are pausing at the wrong stations; thus, the brain cannot process the units of meaning. An example is given below to illustrate the importance of thought groups.

Sample Sentence

A thought group comprises approximately two to five words that form a unit of meaning.

Sentences with Wrong Pause Stations:

1. A thought/ group is a /group of approximately two to/ five words that/ form a unit of/ meaning//.

2. A/ thought group is/ a group of approximately/ two to five/ words that form a/ unit of meaning//.

3. A thought group is/ a group/ of approximately two/ to five/ words that/ form a unit of meaning//.

Try reading the three sentences with slashes. Notice how difficult it is to understand what the entire sentence is trying to convey. This is the problem when readers and speakers do not correctly use thought groups or pause stations so that the mind can quickly process units of meaning in a sentence. You may even try to guess as many possible pause stations as you can have in the given sentence, but the results may even be the same --- the listener and reader may be lost as to what the sentence truly means.

To ensure that we have the proper thought groups or pause stations, let us try following the rules in identifying them.

Rules in Slashing for the Phrases

  1. Locate the subject.
  2. Before a preposition, watch out for infinitives.
  3. Before conjunction.
  4. After a verb.
  5. In between items enumerated.
  6. Before and after a direct quote.
  7. Long pause for a period; shorter pause for a comma.
  8. Watch for punctuation marks such as period, colon, semi-colon, question mark, and comma.

With these warning signs, it may be easier for you to locate the proper pause stations. Let us try using the rules in the given sentence:

A thought group comprises approximately two to five words that form a unit of meaning. (RAW)

1. Locate the subject.

In the RAW sentence, a complete subject is A THOUGHT GROUP. This means we must slash or pause after the word “GROUP.”

2. Before a preposition but watch out for infinitives.

In the RAW sentence, there are three prepositions: OF, TO, and OF. Using this second rule, we will have to stop before the prepositions unless we see an infinitive. Therefore, the RAW sentence would look like this now:

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A thought group/ is a group/ of approximately two /to five words that form a unit /of meaning.

3. Before conjunction.

In the RAW sentence, there is only one conjunction: THAT. Combining all the other slashes we now have for the RAW sentence, it will now look like the one below:

A thought group/ is a group/ of approximately two/ to five words/ that form a unit /of meaning.

4. After a verb.

In the RAW sentence, there are two verbs. They are IS and FORM. Again, including these pause stations in the sentence would make it look like the one below:

A thought group/ is a group/ of approximately two/ to five words/ that form/ a unit /of meaning.

Since there is no direct quote in this sample sentence, other rules do not apply. However, some punctuation marks are also paused stations, as stated in rules 7 and 8. Using these last two rules, the finished slashed sentence would look like the one below:

A thought group/ is a group/ of approximately two/ to five words/ that form/ a unit/ of meaning//.

Note that the double slashes at the end of the sentence signal to the reader that it is the end of a longer pause or a total stop is necessary.

Real-Life Application of the Thought Groups

Looking at the slashed RAW sentence, it seems that there are far too many pause stations in a single sentence. This does not mean that the reader or speaker must pause in every station, but he or she may opt to pause in any slash should there be a need to breathe. This is the importance of thought groups aside from giving meaning to the phrases in a sentence. At the same time, using the pause stations as breathing spaces also allows the reader and listener to efficiently process the information conveyed by the sentence being read or listened to. Aside from speech problems, the only reason why many do not understand what they have read or have heard is usually based on the error in delivery due to misplaced pause stations. If this is done right all the time, reading and listening comprehension would be much easier, and studying would be much more comfortable and with less effort.

Take the Thought Groups Test

Below are a few sentences that will require slashes to identify the proper pause stations. I hope you remember the rules for determining the right thought groups and where to properly place the slash. There are no punctuation marks in the given sentences so be sure to put them first before going after the slashes. Good luck, and have fun!

  1. The team won the game but my uniform was muddy because it rained the entire time
  2. The sun is shining through the clouds so Irene thinks that our family can go swimming
  3. After our trip to the beach, school started back and I was excited to see my friends
  4. My father would have purchased the car but it was too expensive and we have no garage
  5. Tony said you must try smiling so others will like you then she smiled for the first time

Teaser On!

With the four skills and aspects now done, you can now develop the skills and focus on the necessary training needed to further improve your ability to read and speak in the English language. Standby as I make one more blog combining all four into one, but this is more of a review and test. Should you want to revisit the three blogs before this, be sure to click on the links below:


For Contraction:

For Emphatic Sentence Stress:

Until next time, don’t forget to comment and share with others you think would need these skills and pointers. Thanks and bye for now.


Smith, Jan, et al. (1992). Communicate: Strategies for International Teaching Assistants. Regents: Prentice Hall Publishing House. N.p. Retrieved from

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