Syllables – Six Types

SyllablesBreaking words into syllables helps us learn how to spell them and how to pronounce them. The six types of syllables are explained here.

Spelling experts suggest that segmentation is the key to good spelling. This means that we should break words up into parts in order to learn them more easily. The best way to break up words is to divide them into syllables. A syllable is a beat in a word which usually has a vowel sound in it. There are six types of syllables and we need to learn each type so that we know how to break words up correctly.

Open and Closed Syllables

The easiest types of syllable to understand are open syllables and closed syllables. An open syllable has a long vowel sound in it. A long vowel is one which says its name such as the ‘o’ in ‘open’. This word has two syllables ‘o’ and ‘pen’. We can hear these as two beats. The ‘o’ is an open syllable because it is a vowel that clearly says its own name.

A closed syllable contains a short vowel; these are the ones that do not say their names. The word ‘shot’ is a one syllable word which contains a short vowel. You can hear that the letter ‘o’ in this word makes a different sound to the one in ‘open’. Words like ‘shot’ and ‘that’ are closed syllables, as they only contain one beat and have a short vowel sound within them.

Diphthong syllables

Sometimes the vowel sound, in a syllable, is made by two letters together. In the word ‘sail’ the ‘a’ and the ‘i’ work together to make the vowel sound. Words like ‘sail’ are called diphthong syllables because of the two letters working together within them. When we split words up into syllables such diphthongs stay together.

Magic ‘e’ syllables

A magic ‘e’ comes at the end of many words to make their short vowel long. We see ‘magic e’ in words such as ‘same’, ‘hope’ and ‘hate’. These words, which are one beat long are called ‘magic ‘e’ syllables’. Some people call them ‘silent ‘e’ syllables’ because the ‘e’ is silent yet it helps to create a long vowel sound.

Consonant ‘le’ syllables

Many words end with ‘le’ but often these letters have a consonant before them. Examples are words such as ‘cradle’ and ‘bubble’. In these words there are two beats so they contain two syllables, but the final syllable is made up of the consonant with the ‘le’. This means that ‘cradle’ would break up into cra/dle. The first syllable ‘cra’ is an open syllable since the ‘a’ in it says its name. The final syllable is the ‘consonant ‘le’ syllable’.

‘R’ Combination syllables

The final type of syllable is made up of at least one vowel with an ‘r’ directly after it. R gives vowels a unique sound. Examples of ‘r’ combination syllables would be ‘ear’, ‘er’, ‘ir’ and ‘or’. In the word ‘actor’ you can hear that there are two beats, or syllables. The ‘r’ combination syllable is the second syllable in the word (‘or’).

Once you are aware of these types of syllables it becomes easier to know how to break words up in order to spell them. The six syllable types can also be used to help children to pronounce the words since they would know, for example, that a magic ‘e’ gives the vowel a long sound.

Learning these six syllable types can be difficult but once they are mastered they are a valuable tool which can aid literacy development.