How to divide words into syllables in Italian

What is a syllable? Syllables are the phonemes that make up words. In this lesson, we will see how to divide words into syllables in Italian.

Ca-mi-cia
Syllables for “shirt”

Ta-ver-na
Syllables for “tavern”

two women drinking at a table

How do you split Italian words into syllables? What consonant clusters can you divide? Read on to find the answers to these questions and more in this ultimate guide to syllable division in Italian!


How do you divide words into syllables in Italian?

In our computerized age, we don’t really need to divide words into syllables anymore. However, there are times when it is very important to know this skill.

Imagine you are taking an Italian language exam and you have to write a small essay by hand. Then you realize that there’s no more room on the page to write eccezionale or any other long Italian word. You don’t want to start a new line, because your teacher would know you can’t divide words into syllables in Italian!


Rules for dividing words into syllables in Italian

1 consonant + 1 vowel make a syllable.

Pera, mobile, domenica
Pe-ra, mo-bi-le, do-me-ni-ca
(Pear, furniture, Sunday)

a green pear

1 vowel/diphthong + 1 consonant at the beginning of a word make a syllable.

Abaco, isola, Aurora
A-ba-co, i-so-la, Au-ro-ra
(Abacus, island, Aurora [first name])

Double consonants (tt, pp, ss, nn…) are split in half between two syllables.

Panno, ramarro, bacche
Pan-no, ra-mar-ro, bac-che
(Cloth, green lizard, berries)

blackberries

S + consonants are never split and form a syllable starting with s-.

Bastone, castagna, nostromo
Ba-sto-ne, ca-sta-gna, no-stro-mo
(Stick, chestnut, boatswain)

Consonant clusters that can start a word + a following vowel make a syllable.

Strada, padrino, altro
Stra-da, pa-dri-no, al-tro
(Street, godfather, other)

boulevard lined with trees

Consonant clusters that CANNOT start a word are split between two syllables.

Martello, prendere, acne
Mar-tel-lo, pren-de-re, ac-ne
(Hammer, to take, acne)

Hiatuses are split between two syllables.

Aeroplano, paesaggio, poeta
A-e-ro-pla-no, pa-e-sag-gio, po-e-ta
(Airplane, landscape, poet)

landscape with fields and a clear sky

Diphthongs and triphthongs are NEVER split between two syllables.

Guida, fuori, causa, aiuola
Gui-da, fuo-ri, cau-sa, a-iuo-la
(Driving, outside, cause, flowerbed)

You can’t split the gn, sc and gl clusters.

Bagno, scemo, maglia, pigna, fascia
Ba-gno, sce-mo, ma-glia, pi-gna, fa-scia
(Bathroom, idiot, pullover, pine cone, band)

How would you divide the following Italian words into syllables? PATATA, RODODENDRO, FATTO, CALIBRO, ARTO, PENNARELLO, AIUTO, AUTUNNO, CIOCCOLATO? Write your answer in the comments!


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