The Different Types of Syllables

Syllables are a unit of pronunciation. It is often taught in language classes for various reasons: (1) it helps organize a word so that spelling can be taught efficiently, (2) help teach the pronunciation of vowels, and (3) the segmentation of words reminds students of double letters in certain words.

When students learn syllables, it becomes easier for them to spell longer words—words that students may ignore on purpose because they’re hard to spell. It also becomes easier for them to read words more quickly and accurately. There are a total of six types of syllables in the English language. Each one will be discussed briefly in the following section.

Types of Syllables

Spoken syllables are organized based on vowel sounds. Spoken syllables can be counted by counting the number of times you sound out a vowel. Tip: it’s the same as counting the number of times your jaw drops when saying a long word (e.g., el-e-phant). All syllable types can be either simple or complex. Complex syllables contain consonant clusters, while simple syllables don’t. Simple syllables are easier for students to recognize and learn, so it might be best to start teaching simple syllables first and then move on to complex syllables.

·         Closed syllables – the tell-tale sign of a closed syllable is when a syllable contains a short vowel sound, it is sandwiched between one or more consonants (e.g., bet-ter).

·        Open syllables – a syllable is said to be “open” if it ends with a long vowel sound and is not followed by a consonant letter (unlike a closed syllable). Syllables that follow will not have double consonant letters (e.g., li-lac). Some one-syllable words can be considered open syllables, such as he, she, and me.

·         Vowel-consonant-e (VCe) syllables – these are syllables that have the silent “e” sound. It is a syllable that has a long-sounding vowel, with the next letter being a consonant, and ends with the aforementioned silent “e” (e.g., cake, bake).

·         Consonant-le (C-le) syllables – these syllables are usually at the end of a word, but not all consonants are identified as c-le syllables. If a c-le syllable comes after a closed syllable, it results in a double consonant (e.g., bab-ble); it comes after an open syllable, a double consonant does not occur (e.g., la-dle, ma-ple).

·         Vowel-r syllables – also known as r-controlled syllables, vowel-r syllables are called such because is a vowel followed by an r. These can be found anywhere in a word—at the start, middle, or end (e.g., har-bor, la-bor, sum-mer).

·         Vowel team syllables – these represent long and short sounding vowels (e.g., grief, beef, moat)


The different types of syllable sounds can seem quite confusing at first. It is recommended that these be taught by using lots of examples. The different syllable types can be seen in different types of words. It is important to teach students about syllables after learning phonics because this will greatly help them with spelling and pronunciation of longer words. Students tend to skip over words that they are not familiar with. By teaching syllables, the process of learning big words is broken down into smaller pieces and will be easier to remember.

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