What Is a Syllable? (with Examples)
SyllablesA syllable is a unit of sound. More specifically, it is a single segment of uninterrupted sound that is typically produced with a single pulse of air from the lungs.
Easy Examples of SyllablesHere is a list of one-syllable words:
- ace, big, black, blonde, blue, board, calm, clean, cool, cross, dark, dead, drab, drunk, dry, dumb, faint, fair, fat, few, fish, five, full, green, heart, high, huge, kind, loud, love, odd, one, plain, prime, quick, right, rogue, rough, weak, wise, wolf, world, wry
Here is a list of two-syllable words:
- able, alive, apple, away, better, broken, city, country, daily, early, easy, even, evil, fifty, forward, freedom, future, happy, human, hungry, joyful, language, little, loving, lucky, many, music, nature, office, open, other, over, party, perfect, picture, public, pumpkin, safe, simple, solid, special, stupid, sugar, thirsty, ugly, welcome, woman
Here is a list of three-syllable words:
- abducting, accurate, adjective, animal, buffalo, cabinet, certainly, companion, conference, connection, considered, curious, customary, dangerous, different, difficult, dinosaur, electric, everything, exciting, exercise, family, feminine, general, glacier, healthy, horizon, illustrate, important, industry, innocent, instrument, internal, liberal, library, masculine, medical, musical, natural, opposite, period, personal, physical, positive, possible, separate, serious, sporadic, tropical, uniform
Here is a list of four-syllable words:
- admirable, adorable, aggravated, alligator, alternative, ambitious, derivative, annoying, anonymous, appreciate, automatic, avocado, barbarian, beautiful, belligerent, bullying, captivating, community, commutative, complicated, emotionless, eternity, everlasting, everyday, everything, forgiveness, historical, hyphenated, identical, independence, infinitive, information, intelligence, intermittent, invincible, irregular, legendary, literature, material, meticulous, necessary, ordinary, original, preposition, professional, reciprocal, relaxation, republican, responsible, secretary, spectacular, television, ubiquitous, undemanding, variable, vegetable, watermelon, worrying
More about SyllablesA syllable is made up of one or more letters with a vowel sound at its core. This does not necessarily mean that every syllable will contain a vowel, but it will include a vowel sound when pronounced. For example, "rhythm," which has two syllables, does not contain any vowels, but it is said with two vowel sounds. Therefore, spelling is not a good indication of how many syllables a word has. The pronunciation of a word determines the number of syllables. Here are some examples that highlight this point:
- screeched, scratched, scrunched, stretched, straights, strengths (Despite being nine letters long, these are all one-syllable words.)
- shrugged (This one-syllable word contains the two-syllable word "rugged." It's a good reminder that the number of syllables is determined by pronunciation.)
The 7 Syllable TypesThere are 7 types of syllable. Every word can be broken down into these syllable types.
(1) Closed Syllables (Symbol: VC)A closed syllable has a single vowel and ends with a consonant. The vowel has a short sound.
- at, bat, hen, plant, kitchen, napkin, puppet, rabbit, fantastic
- frozen, pilot, candy
(2) Open Syllables (Symbol:An open syllable ends with a single vowel. The vowel has a long sound. )
- be, flu, go, hi, she, hero, potato
- music, paper, tiger, bingo
(3) Magic "E" Syllables (Symbol:
The magic "e" syllable ends with a consonant and a silent "e.". It has a long vowel sound. C
- bake, bone, life, pine, lifetime
- valentine, baseball, explode
(4) Vowel Teams Syllables (Symbol:
A vowel team syllable contains two vowels that make one vowel sound.
- boat, cheek, eat, free, glue, green, pie, seed, team, tray
- floating, rainfall, whitethroat
(5) Diphthong Syllables (Symbol:A diphthong syllable contains two vowels that make a special sound. )
- blue, boil, cloud, look, mood, scout
- audio, annoy, seatrout
(6) R-controlled Syllables (Symbol: VR)An r-controlled syllable has a syllable followed by a single letter "r." The sound is controlled by the "r."
- bird, car, cart, corn, first, for, fur, her, star, yard
- farming, varnish, caterpillar
(7) Consonant LE Syllables (Symbol: CLE)A consonant-LE syllable is an unaccented final syllable with a consonant followed by "le."
- bubble, candle, circle, uncle (Only the bolded syllables are consonant-LE syllables.)
Books Written with Only Monosyllabic WordsOf interest, lots of well-known novels have been rewritten into texts of just monosyllabic words. The authors of these books claim to go through this process to create texts that young children can read. (Personally, I think they do it to showcase their writing skills. Either way, it's impressive.)
- I was born at York on the first of March in the sixth year of the reign of King Charles the First. From the time when I was quite a young child, I had felt a great wish to spend my life at sea, and as I grew, so did this taste grow more and more strong; till at last I broke loose from my school and home, and found my way on foot to Hull, where I soon got a place on board a ship. (This is the opening paragraph of Mary Godolphin's 'Robinson Crusoe' in words of one syllable. With the exception of boy Xury and man Friday, the whole book is written in words of one syllable.)
Why Should I Care about Syllables?Here are three noteworthy points related to syllables.
(Point 1) Understanding the syllable types is essential to teach reading.Knowing the 7 types of syllable is an essential skill to teach reading and spelling.
Try our drag-and-drop test on syllables.
(Point 2) The dissyllabic word "Learnéd" means well educated.Being unfamiliar with the term "syllable" is unlikely to lead to errors in your writing or speech. That said, this is a situation to avoid:
- Oh, Papa Homer, you are so learnéd.
Learn'd, son. It's pronounced learn'd.
I love you, Papa Homer.
I love you too, Pepsi.
(This is an extract from "Brother from the Same Planet" (1993), Season 4 of The Simpsons.)