Mastering Syllables: What Is a Syllable?

What is a syllable? It’s the building block of words and the foundation for decoding how to say and write unfamiliar words. In this article, we’re going to explain the definition, purpose, and the different types of syllables. So, if you want to learn more about syllables and their types, read on.

What Is Syllable in English?

You may be asking yourself what a syllable is. It is a single, unbroken sound in written or spoken words. The number of syllables in a word varies, and longer words have more syllables than short words. 

Fun fact: The word syllable comes from the Greek word sullabe.

In dictionaries, it refers to a unit of pronunciation, specifically, a unit of pronunciation with one vowel sound, which may or may not be surrounded by consonants.

You can divide words into two categories based on syllables: monosyllable and polysyllable. Monosyllable words only have one syllable, like the words dog and cat. On the other hand, polysyllable words have two or more syllables, like the words water and research.

What Is a Stressed Syllable?

stressed syllable has a longer, louder, and more prominent sound than the other syllables in a word. The easiest way to identify it is to listen to how the word is spoken. Which sound in the word is the longest or the loudest? 

Syllable Examples

  • Water – wa / ter
  • Category – cat / e / gor / y
  • Into – in / to
  • Triangle – tri / an / gle
  • Sylabble – syl / la / ble
  • Computer – com / pu / ter

What Are the Different Types of Syllables?

There are six types of syllables, including.

Closed Syllables (VC)

The first type is the closed syllable. So, what is a closed syllable, you ask? Compared to other types of syllables, a closed syllable has a short vowel ending in a consonant. Some examples of closed syllables in words are:

  • Cat
  • Cap
  • Hat
  • Dish
  • Basket – bas / ket

Open Syllables (V)

If the first type has a short vowel, what is an open syllable? Open syllables, opposite to closed syllables, end with a vowel sound spelled using a single vowel. The key to identifying open syllables is that they end with a vowel. Examples of open syllable words include:

  • Equal – e / qual
  • Program – pro / gram
  • Music – mu / sic
  • Apex – a / pex
  • Cedar – ce / dar

Vowel-Consonant-e Syllables (VCE)

You’ll typically find vce syllables at the end of words. Keep in mind in vowel-consonant-e syllables the ending e is silent, and the vowel before it has the long vowel sound.

  • Place – pl / ace
  • Mice – m / ice
  • Wine – w / ine
  • Vote – v / ote
  • Mute – m / ute

Vowel Teams Syllables (VV)

In vowel team syllables or diphthong syllables, two vowels next to each other create a new sound. You’ll come across the most common vowel teams are “ou” and “i.e.”

  • South
  • Sound
  • Boil
  • Rain
  • Awful – aw / ful

Speaking of diphthongs, did you know that a diphthong is different from a digraph

R-controlled Syllables (VR)

Whenever an r follows a vowel, you get an r-controlled syllable. You can think of these as the bossy r syllables as the vowel sound is neither short nor long. The vowel sound is controlled by the r.

  • Target – tar / get
  • Burger – bur / ger
  • Yogurt – yo / gurt
  • Harbor – har / bor
  • Garment – gar / ment

Consonant LE Syllables (C-LE)

A consonant le syllable is simply put are featured in words with a consonant followed by le. With these syllables, the consonant and the letter “l” are the only sounds you pronounce. The ending letter “e” is silent.

  • Handle – han / dle
  • Crumble – crum / ble
  • Paddle – pad / dle
  • Jungle – jun / gle
  • Circle – cir / cle

Why Is Learning Syllables Important?

Now that you know what a syllable is and its types, why should you learn and master it? 

Remember, syllables are the building blocks of words. If you can decode these building blocks, you can easily spell and pronounce new words. As a matter of fact, if you divide the words into “chunks,” it makes reading easier too.

Moreover, you can identify words with more than one type of syllable. Words like “target” have two types of syllables. The first syllable is “tar,” an r-controlled syllable, while the “get” is a closed syllable. 

Summing It Up

If you’re still bewildered about the meaning of a syllable, it is simply the unit of sound, consisting of consonants and vowels to form words. Six different types of syllables, and each one has a different syllable structure.


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