Italian Syllabication

Phonetically speaking, the syllable is the smallest fraction of a word, pronounced as a single sound.

Most Italian syllables end in a vowel sound. All syllables must contain at least one vowel, which is their strong sound, while they do not necessarily need a consonant: syllables without vowels do not exist, while syllables without consonants do exist.

Grammatically, the division of a word into syllables follows these rules:

A single consonant goes with the following vowel.

  • Casa (house) » ca-sa
  • Matita (pencil) » ma-ti-ta
  • Positivo (positive) » po-si-ti-vo
  • Ruvido (rough) » ru-vi-do.

Any double consonant must be split into two subsequent syllables:

  • Gatto (cat) » gat-to
  • Carrozza (carriage, wagon) » car-roz-za
  • Mappa (map) » map-pa
  • Possessore (owner) » pos-ses-so-re

Two consonants, the first of which is l, m, n, or r, are divided.

  • Trenta (thirty) » tren-ta
  • Cantante (singer) » can-tan-te
  • Perla (pearl) » per-la
  • Contento (contented) » con–ten–to
Otherwise, a combination of two consonants belongs to the following syllable.
  • Figlio (son) » fi–glio
  • Vetrina (shop-window) » ve-tri-na
  • Padre (father) » pa-dre
  • Decreto (decree,bill) » de-cre-to

A vowel alone may form a syllable at the beginning of a word if followed by a consonant:

  • Isola (island) » i-so-la
  • Animale (animal) » a-ni-ma-le
  • Odore (smell) » o-do-re
  • Aratro (plough) » a-ra-tro
However, when the following consonant is either nasal or liquid and any further consonant comes after it, i.e. vowel + nasal or liquid consonant + any consonant (such as alt..., enc..., imp..., ond..., urg..., and so on), the first syllable binds to the vowel, to accomplish the previous rule:
  • Intero(whole) » in-te-ro
  • Urgente (urgent) » ur-gen-te
  • Ultimo (last) » ul-ti-mo
  • Imparare (to learn) » im-pa-ra-re

When three consonants are together the first goes with the preceding syllable, except s, which goes with the following syllable:

  • Sempre (always) » sem–pre
  • Entrare (to enter) » en-tra-re
  • Membro (member) » mem–bro
  • Inglese (english) » in-gle-se
However, with 3 consonant that are together with "s" at the beginning:
  • Finestra(window) » fi–ne–stra
  • Maestro(Master) » ma-e-stro
  • Minestra(soup) » mi–ne–stra
  • Strano(strange) » stra-no
  • Ministro(minister)»mi-nis-tro
  • Spremere(to squeeze)»spre-me-re

Diphthongs and triphthongs are never divided.

  • Buono (good) » buo - no
  • Quadro (picture, painting) » qua - dro
  • Viale (avenue) » via - le
  • Miele (honey) » mie – le
  • Chiodo (nail) » chio - do
  • Lingua (language) » lin–gua
Diphthongs may occur in stressed or unstressed syllables. However, when a diphthong is broken by stress (the vowel i or u directly bears the stress), then the two vowels break into separate syllables.
  • Mio (mine) » mi–o
  • Terapia (therapy) » te–ra–pi–a
  • Tuo (yours) » tu–o
  • Allegria (joy) » al–le–gri–a
  • Mania (mania) » ma–ni–a
  • Farmacia (pharmacy) » far–ma–ci–a

There are many monosyllabic words, which cannot be split since they are made of only one syllable. The most common ones are:

  • Definite articles (il, lo, la, i, gli, le); 
  • Simple prepositions (di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra); 
  • Several conjunctions (e, o, ma, sì, no, etc.); 
  • Most personal pronouns (io, tu, te, ti, lui, lei, gli, le, noi, ci, voi, vi, si etc.); 
  • Many indicative pronouns (quel, qui, qua, lì, là); 
  • Two numbers (tre, sei);
  • Some short words of daily use (blu, più, già, giù, etc.).