Grammar Guide
Pronunciation and Spelling
Spanish Syllables and Syllabification Rules

Spanish Syllables and Syllabification Rules

Quick Answer

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 a syllable with a vowel whenever possible.

Check out the syllabification of these common Spanish words.

WordSyllabification
sábana
sá-ba-na
gato
ga-to
casa
ca-sa
mano
ma-no
oro
o-ro
mesa
me-sa

Two Consecutive Consonants

Two consecutive consonants will generally belong to separate syllables. However, if the second consonant in a consonant pair is r or l, the consonant pair is not separated into different syllables.

Words that begin with prefixes often violate the above rules. For example the syllabification of enloquecer is en-lo-que-cer.

Check out the syllabification of these common Spanish words containing consecutive consonants.

WordSyllabification
cuando
cuan-do
alcanzar
al-can-zar
costa
cos-ta
sombrilla
som-bri-lla
clave
cla-ve
trabajo
tra-ba-jo
aplicar
a-pli-car
frecuente
fre-cuen-te
hecho
he-cho
amarillo
a-ma-ri-llo
carro
ca-rro
merengue
me-ren-gue
  • 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 other regions, such as Mexico and 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.

Check out the syllabification of these words with three consecutive consonants.

WordSyllabification
inglés
in-glés
compresar
com-pre-sar
panfleto
pan-fle-to
ombligo
om-bli-go
constante
cons-tan-te

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

A tilde placed over a letter changes the above pronunciation rules, and the accented letter must be separated from any surrounding vowels. Example: mío

Check out the syllabification of these words containing groups of vowels.

WordSyllabification
toalla
to-a-lla
feo
fe-o
iguana
i-gua-na
reina
rei-na
tío
tí-o
ciudad
ciu-dad
creer
cre-er

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