The English alphabet is a collection of letters consisting of 5 vowels and 21 consonants. A group of letters constitutes a word and generally each word must contain at least one vowel, or one vowel sound, and these sounds constitute syllables.
English is about speaking, listening, reading and writing. While reading and writing depend on spellings for the proper understanding of the language, speaking and listening depend upon pronunciation. A word is pronounced in a particular way and it is here that syllables come in handy. Each word is broken into units of speech and we call each unit a syllable.
Each word will have a minimum of one syllable, but may have more. For instance, FOR is a word with one syllable, CRI-CKET is a word with two syllables and IN-CRED-IB-LE is a word with four syllables. Can you see that each syllable contains just one vowel sound? You will also notice that INCREDIBLE has four syllables and each syllable contains one vowel. This leads us to the conclusion that there are as many syllables in a word as there are vowels and this rule has, of course, exceptions!
When two vowels appear together they can be treated as a single vowel. For instance, PREACHER has three vowels but only two syllables because the EA is treated as one vowel and the last E is another vowel. BLOUSE has three vowels but is considered to be one syllable word because OU is treated as one vowel and the last E is treated as a silent letter.
Remember that the length of the word and the number of consonants in the word have no bearing on the number of syllables. For instance, I, ME, LENGTH and RHYTHM are all words with one syllable. You will be surprised at RHYTHM because it does not have a vowel but sometimes, as you know, Y is considered as a vowel.
Take this quiz and find out how much you know about syllables.