A unit of sound that forms a meaningful word is called a syllable. Syllables usually contain a vowel and accompanying consonants.

What Are Syllables in English?

What Are Syllables?

As you know English language has many words, these words can be divide into parts, we call each of these parts syllables. A syllable has one and only one vowel sound (remember vowel sound and not letter) and one or more consonants. . A particular word can have one, two, three, four, or more syllables, but they are usually one to four ones.

Counting Syllables

A syllable cannot have more than one vowel sound, but it can have more than one vowel letter. In counting syllables, you do not count the consonants or vowel letters, we usually have syllables as many as the vowel sounds. Check out the examples.


The vowel sound in this word is 'u' and it has the sound of /ʌ/, so the word has one syllable.


We have two vowel sounds in this word. One is the sound /ʌ/ which is the sound of the letter 'u' and another is /ə/ that is the sound of the letter 'e'; so, we have two syllables.

When you count the syllables, you have to count all the vowel sounds which exist in a word. Or sometimes when two consonants are used beside each other and one part is pronounced separately it means that they are different syllables. Here are the examples:


This word is only one syllable and it contains of 'think'.


This word is made of two syllables one is /trans/ and the other one is /port/.

Vowel letters are (a, e, i, u, o). They are considered syllable markers. For example:


Pa is one syllable and rent is another syllable.


uni is only one syllable because 'u' has the sound of /j/ and 'on' is the other syllable which start with the vowel sound /ən/.

If the letter 'y' is used at the end of the word it usually has the sound of /i/ and it is considered a vowel sound. Such as:


This word has four syllables: /uni/, /ver/, /si/, /ty/

If the word has a vowel letter that is not pronounced, it is not considered a syllable. For example:


In this word, trace is only one syllable because the 'e' at the end of the word is not pronounced.

Guides to divide syllables

  • The simplest rule is to count the vowel sounds as we mentioned earlier. For example:


has one vowel sound, therefor it's one syllable.


there are two vowel letters there but only one vowel sound (letter e at the end is silent), therefor, it's one syllable.

  • For words with prefixes and suffixes we can simply separate them from the root word. What does that mean?

Singing → sing + ing(suffix)

therefor two syllables.

Rewrite → (prefix)re + write

therefor two syllables.

Unfaithful → (prefix)un + faith + ful(suffix)

therefor three syllables.

  • When there are two or more consonants between the vowels we divide from between them (if there are three after the first consonant)

Contest → con/test

Tablet → tab/let

Milgram → mil/gram


A word like mother has two consonants too but they pronounce as one therefor we treat it as one consonant:
Mother → mo/ther
Father →Fa/ther

  • When there is one consonant between two vowel sounds, we should depend on whether the first vowel is long vowel or short vowel, if it's a long vowel we separate from before the consonant, If it's a short vowel we separate from after the consonant

Iron → I/ron

long vowel

Seaside → sea/side

long vowel

Value → val/ue

Short vowel

River → Riv/er

Short vowel

  • When the words end with –ckle we split before –le

Tackle → Tack/le

Nickle → Nick/le

  • Words that end with consonant +le we divide from one letter before -le

Apple → ap/ple

Castle → cas/tle

'painful' has two syllables

Different Types of Syllables

There are two different types of syllables, as follows:

  1. open syllable
  2. closed syllable

What Is an Open Syllable?

When we have only one vowel letter, it has only one vowel sound, and it is used at the end of the word, it is called an open syllable. Check out the following examples:




What Is a Closed Syllable?

A word that has one vowel letter and vowel sound but ends in a consonant sound is called a closed syllable. Here are a few examples:



Monosyllabic Words

If a word has only one vowel sound, it is called a monosyllabic word. For example:



Two Vowel letters But One Vowel Sound

Some words have two vowel letters but the two letters have only one vowel sound. For example:



Polysyllabic Words

When a word has more than one vowel sound, or in other words, it has more than one syllable, it is called a polysyllabic word. Here are a few examples:


This word has two syllables /pain/ and /ful/.


The word 'happily' has three syllables: /ha/, /ppi/, and /ly/.


Syllables are counted based on the vowel sounds of the words. The number of syllables equals the number of vowel sounds in a word.


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