since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English

Understanding Syllables

syllable (noun): a unit of pronunciation that has one vowel sound, and may or may not be surrounded by consonants. A syllable can form a whole word or part of a word. For example, there is one syllable in cat, two syllables in monkey and three syllables in elephant.

To understand word stress, it helps to understand syllables.
Every word is made from syllables.
Each word has one, two, three or more syllables.

word number of syllables
dog dog 1
green green 1
quite quite 1
quiet qui-et 2
orange or-ange 2
table ta-ble 2
expensive ex-pen-sive 3
interesting in-ter-est-ing 4
unrealistic un-rea-lis-tic 4
unexceptional un-ex-cep-tio-nal 5

Notice that (with a few rare exceptions) every syllable contains at least one vowel (a, e, i, o or u) or vowel sound.