Syllable Rules 1-3

That’s why we’re here to help in the first episode, which covers rules one to three.


by Brendan Bense

April 13, 2019

Welcome to the very first post on syllable rules, where FactSumo breaks down each and every rule for, well, breaking down syllables! Syllables are easy to sound out loud, but a little more difficult to write. That’s why we’re here to help in the first episode, which covers rules one to three. These mini-posts go into a bit of detail concerning the rules, so there’s no confusion for you or your students!

Ready to dive in? Us too!


We’ll kick off the series with a super straightforward rule. This will help you think about how to sound syllables out loud. We described them briefly in our master post, but what exactly are syllables? We like to think of them as the basic beats of English. Each syllable has at least one vowel in it, so when you see a word like total, you can infer that there are probably two syllables in it. This is even more obvious when you pronounce the word out loud. Each syllable has a single vowel sound.

The second part of this rule states that you can find out how many syllables a word has by counting the number of vowel sounds. Vowel sounds come from a combination of one or two vowels. When you put vowels together, they make an entirely new sound (we’ll go over this in detail later). Let’s put our very first rule into practice. How many syllables does the word six have? Don’t be fooled by what the word means! If you guessed one syllable, great job. Now let’s try a more difficult example. How many syllables does the word five have? Yep, this word only has one syllable as well. Although e is a vowel, it does not make a vowel sound because it is a silent e! Silent e usually goes on the ends of words, and is not pronounced.


Let’s start off by talking about what a consonant is. To do that, we need to talk about what vowels are: a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. A consonant is every other letter of the alphabet! Syllables are the basic units of sound in every English word. They are irreducible, meaning they can’t be broken down any further than these basic units. When we use the word divide in our rules, we mean we’re going to separate syllables using a dash (-).

Now that our micro-lesson on consonants is out of the way, let’s talk about our second rule. If a word has two or more consonants that are next to each other, divide them between the first and second consonant. Take the word computer. If we say it out loud, very slowly, we’ll notice that the word computer has three syllables. Now let’s use rule two to figure out where the first division goes. Notice that the letters m and p are both consonants, and they are both next to each other. Perfect! That means our first syllable break should be between those two. Com-put. Want to see how we get to the end of this word? See our third episode! For now, let’s head over to rule three, which is all about digraphs!


For rule three, we’re going to discuss digraphs. The name isn’t as important as what they are. Digraphs are groups of letters (consonants) that go together to create a new sound. Ch, sh, th are all good examples. Notice that when we combine these two letters, they make a different sound than if they were apart.

Digraphs almost always stick together. Since they create one concrete sound, they rarely are split apart by syllable markings. Of course, every rule has some exceptions. The more you read and practice splitting syllables, the faster you’ll be able to identify these rules and exceptions! Let’s discuss some examples to help you practice spotting digraphs in simple words. Our first word is fluent. First off, using rule one, how many syllables are there in this word? Two! Now using rule three, we can’t separate fl because it’s a digraph. So, we’ll divide after the first vowel (because each syllable has one vowel sound in it). The result is flu-ent!

Let’s try a more difficult example with a digraph in it. Drinkable. How many syllables do we have? Three (this is not an example of a silent e). We can’t divide digraphs, so we can’t split dr, nk, or bl from each other. So instead of following rule two and dividing the consonants, we’ll divide right after nk. We’ll also leave a by itself because it’s one vowel sound. The result is drink-a-ble. Great job!

How did you feel about our first three rules? We hope they didn’t scare you off! If you’re ready to move on, that’s fantastic news! On our next episode, we’ll talk about rules four and five. If you don’t think you’re ready, that’s okay too. Don’t get discouraged! FactSumo is all about confidence through practice. Languages are pretty difficult to learn, especially the finer points like syllables and grammar. So look over these rules, play our decks, and practice, practice, practice! See you next time on FactSumo!