What Are Syllables?
As you know, words can be divided into parts, we call each of these parts syllables. In English, 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 it is not common to find words with more than four 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 as many syllables as the vowel sounds. Check out the examples:
The vowel sound in this word is represented by the letter 'u' which is pronounced as /ʌ/, so the word has one syllable.
We have two vowel sounds in this word. One is the sound /ʌ/ which is represented by the letter 'u' and the other is the sound /ə/ that is represented by the letter 'e'; so, we have two syllables.
When you count the syllables, you have to count all the vowel sounds in a word. Also, when two consonants are used beside each other and one part is pronounced separately, it means they are different syllables. Here are the examples:
This word is only one syllable.
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 unless they are not pronounced as vowels. For example:
'uni' is only one syllable because 'u' has the sound of /j/ and 'on' is the other syllable which starts with the vowel sound /ən/.
If the letter 'y' is used at the end of the word, it is usually pronounced as /i/ and 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.
How to Divide Syllables
- The basic rule, as mentioned earlier, is to count the vowel sounds. For example:
this word has one vowel sound; therefor, it's one syllable.
There are two vowel letters here but only one vowel sound (letter e at the end is silent); therefore, it's one syllable.
- In words with prefixes and suffixes, we can divide the syllables by separating them from the root word.
Rewrite → (prefix)
Unfaithful → (prefix)
- When there are two or more consonants between the vowels, we divide the syllables according to them
A word like 'mother' has two consonant letters too, but they are pronounced as a single sound. Therefore, they are treated as one consonant sound:
- When there is one consonant between two vowel sounds, we should pay attention to whether the first vowel is a long vowel or a short vowel. If it's a long vowel, we separate the syllables from before the consonant. If it's a short vowel, we separate the syllables from after the consonant
- When the words end with –ckle, we split the syllables before –le
- In words that end with a consonant +le, we divide the syllables from one letter before -le
Different Types of Syllables
There are two different types of syllables, as follows:
- open syllable
- closed syllable
What Is an Open Syllable?
When we only have one vowel letter with 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:
If a word has only one vowel sound, it is called a monosyllabic word. For example:
Two Vowel Letters with One Vowel Sound
Some words have two vowel letters but the two letters are pronounced as one vowel sound. For example:
When a word has more than one vowel sound, or in other words, 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.