Spanish Syllables and Syllabification Rules
Knowing how to separate a word into syllables can help you pronounce and spell Spanish words correctly, as well as help you decide if a word needs a written accent or not.
General Syllabification Rules
The fancy word for dividing a word into syllables is syllabification. Here are some general rules for Spanish syllabification.
Consonant Plus Vowel
Whenever possible, you should break up words so that each syllable contains a consonant followed by a vowel. A consonant between two vowels belongs to the syllable with the second vowel. The goal is to end each syllable with a vowel.
Two Consecutive Consonants
Two consecutive consonants will generally belong to separate syllables. However, if the second consonant is a r or l, the consonant pair is not separated into different syllables.
- In Puerto Rico and most of Spain, the consonant cluster tl is divided into separate syllables. For example, the syllabification of atlántico is at-lán-ti-co.
- In most of Latin America, especially Mexico and other countries with words of Nahuatl origin, as well as the Canary Islands of Spain, the consonant cluster tl is not divided into separate syllables. For example, the syllabification of atlántico is a-tlán-ti-co and the syllabification of tlacuache (possum) is tla-cua-che.
Three Consecutive Consonants
When three consonants appear together, the first one will generally belong to a separate syllable.
Strong and Weak Vowels
Spanish has both strong vowels (a, e, o) and weak vowels (i, u). Here are some rules on how the combinations of these vowels are divided into syllables.
- Two weak vowels together form a diphthong and are not separated into different syllables. Example: fui
- A weak vowel and a strong vowel together form a diphthong and are not separated into different syllables. Example: Juan
- Two strong vowels together form a hiatus and are separated into different syllables. Example: Leo