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.).



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