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Open Syllable: Words & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is an Open Syllable?
  • 1:22 The English Sound…
  • 3:15 Examples
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Frances Smith
Learning how to spell English words involves knowing how the parts of words are built, spoken, and spelled. In this lesson, learn the English rules of syllabication and the open syllable rule with examples.

What Is an Open Syllable?

Years ago, a mark called a macron or a breve was placed above vowels to symbolize long and short sounds. Today those instructions have changed. A vowel is now sounded depending on where it sits in a syllable or where it is placed in a word. Abbreviations like VCV, VVCV, CVC, etc. (with V representing a vowel and C representing a consonant) are used to show the patterns that dictate whether a vowel is long, short, soft, or silent.

One of the six kinds of English syllables is called an open syllable. It is written with either a single vowel standing by itself, or with a single vowel at the end of a syllable.

  • I
  • a
  • he
  • the
  • my
  • acorn
  • even
  • final

are all examples of open syllables.

In an open syllable the vowel sound is usually long, said like the names of the letters themselves: a, e, i, o, and u; and the syllable is spelled with a single vowel at its end. This is the case with acorn, even, and final.

In order to explain the relationship between sound, syllable, and rules for spelling, let's back up to review some essential knowledge about the English alphabet.

The English Sound Syllable System

The English alphabet has twenty-six symbols, called letters. These letters are divided into two groups. One group is comprised of twenty-one letters or consonants. The other five letters are vowels. Together this collection of consonants and vowels form the English language sound system.

This sound system builds letter patterns, which build words. At the same time, the letter patterns convey rules for how each symbol or letter is spelled and pronounced, specifically whether vowels are short, long, soft, or silent. For example:

Height has six letters, but only three sounds: a consonant (C), a vowel (V), and a consonant (C). At the same time, the Consonant-Vowel-Vowel-Consonant-Consonant (CVVCC) pattern conveys a rule for the vowel combination ei. It shows the first vowel, e, is unspoken or silent, so the second vowel, i, is long. Each consonant is a single sound.

The dictionary will illustrate this rule like this:

/hit/ with a macron, dash over the 'i' to represent the long i

But a formula for this example looks like this:

h + long i + t = height

Understand that syllabication is the term used to identify the division between the sound-symbol patterns and the spelling rules. But, syllabication cannot occur without a vowel; the simple rule to remember is that all syllables must have a vowel. Since height has only one vowel sounded (the long i), the word has only one syllable.

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