Syllabication is quite important since understanding how syllables are formed is a vital step to learning proper pronunciation in Spanish. It is important to know how to divide words into syllables as the letter combination generally determines proper pronunciation and use or placement of an orthographic accent.
Syllabication rules in Spanish
- Whenever possible, a syllable should end in a vowel. In many cases, a syllable consists of a consonant followed by a vowel:
Niña: ni-ña (young girl)
Casa: ca-sa (house)
Boda: bo-da (wedding)
- A consonant placed between two vowels forms a syllable with the second vowel:
Oro: o-ro (gold)
Acá: a-cá (here)
- Two successive consonants will generally form two syllables in which the first consonant forms a syllable with the preceding vowel while the second consonant forms a syllable with the succeeding vowel.
Escuela: es-cue-la (school)
Banco: ban-co (bank)
Cantante: can-tan-te (singer)
Cuando: cuan-do (when)
- When there are three or more consecutive consonants, the first two will generally remain with the preceding vowel while the rest of the consonants will form a syllable with the succeeding vowel.
Consciente: conscien-te (aware)
Panfleto: pan-fle-to (pamphlet)
Ombligo: om-bli-go (belly button)
Entrada: en-tra-da (entry)
Weak and strong vowels
Spanish vowels are either weak or strong and their classification as such has an impact on syllabication. The strong vowels are ‘a’, ‘e’, and ‘o’ and the weak vowels are ‘i’ and ‘u’.
- A Spanish syllable may only contain one strong vowel. A strong vowel placed beside one or more weak vowels may form one syllable together. Two adjacent weak vowels form a diphthong. Two adjacent strong vowels form two separate syllables.
Ciudad: ciu-dad (city)
Caer: ca-er (to fall)
Toalla: to-a-lla (towel)
Reina: rei-na (queen)
Poeta: po-e-ta (poet)
- Some consonant combinations are not separated: br, ch, bl, cl, cr, dr, gr, gl, fl, fr, ll, pl, pr, qu, rr, and tr. In Spanish, we call them “sílabas trabadas”.
Broma: bro-ma (joke)
Hablar: ha-blar (to speak)
Clima: cli-ma (climate)
Clave: cla-ve (key)
Bicicleta: bi-ci-cle-ta (bicycle)
Trabajo: tra-ba-jo (job)
Llamar: lla-mar (to call)
Aplicar: a-pli-car (to apply)
Hecho: he-cho (fact)
Perro: pe-rro (dog)
Fruta: fru-ta (fruit)
Gloria: glo-ria (glory)
Pueblo: pue-blo (town)
Siempre: siem-pre (always)
Frequente: fre-quen-te (frequent)
Amarillo: a-ma-ri-llo (yellow)
Merengue: me-ren-gue (meringue)
Castillo: cas-ti-llo (palace)
Atrás: a-trás (behind)
- However, the combinations “rl,” “sr”, “tl”, “nr”, and “sl” form distinct syllables as follows:
Isla: is-la (island)
Perla: per-la (pearl)
Atlas: at-las (atlas)
Atlantico: at-lan-ti-co (atlantic)
- A word’s prefix forms a syllable of its own:
Learn more about syllabication in Spanish
Now that you now more about syllabication in Spanish you will understand better how Spanish accent marks and stress work and your pronunciation have surely improved. Remember to contact your tutor with any questions you have about this topic. Don’t you have a Spanish tutor yet?
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