Most 2-syllablle nouns (remember nouns are people, places and things) and adjectives (the words that describe the nouns, so for example, pretty dress, beautiful home, red car). These kinds of words should be stressed on the first syllable.
In many varieties of English however, this stress is moved to the second syllable, or both syllables are given equal stress which leads to a very staccato rhythm when people speak. Some words I often hear in Singapore (and throughout most of English-speaking Asia actually) are collEAGUE (instead of COLLeague) and as I've mentioned several times already in this course, my pet peeve, purCHASE (instead of PURchase).
But there are many more examples of 2-syllable nouns and adjectives that stress the first syllable. You can think of this as the default primary stress, although you will find some random exceptions (usually foreign words that are used in English).
Now things change when we start looking at 2-syllable verbs. Verbs, remember, are our action words -- run, jump, speak, sing, etc.
The majority of nouns that also have a verb form, for example, PROgress, PREsent, OBject, PROduce, REcord, will be stressed on the first syllable when used as a noun, but the second syllable when used as a verb (to proGRESS, to preSENT, to obJECT, to proDUCE, to reCORD) .
Let's take a closer look. Take for example the word progress. Listen to how the stress changes depending on how the word is used.
As a noun: We are making great PROgress in this field.
and then as a verb:
New technologies are helping us to proGRESS in this field.
Although this is a pretty great pattern to remember and applies to many, many 2-syllable nouns and verbs, there are unfortunately many exceptions to this rule. Think of words like ANswer, PICture, TRAvel, VISit, my favorite word, PURchase and several others. They retain the stress on the first syllable even when they're used as verbs.