Author: British Council | Uploaded on 1 July 2022


Some pronunciations come from not saying the correct number of syllables in a word.

Learners often have problems pronouncing the correct number of syllables. A typical mistake is adding an extra syllable at the end of a word, e.g. desky instead of desk, or past simple ‘ed’ as two syllables, e.g. ask-ed instead of asked. Counting syllables will help them to notice these mistakes.


Listen to the pronunciation of these words: 

one-syllable words: desk     good     luck     tax      age

two-syllable words: lucky   taxi    happy    easy   pretty

one-syllable verbs: liked   asked   watched    danced   fetched       

two-syllable verbs: wanted   needed     painted   

Notice how many syllables each word has. 


Choose some words which contain one or two syllables. You could choose these from an audio script after a listening activity. 

Write them on the board. Give learners an example of a one-syllable word and a two-syllable word. 

Learners discuss in pairs or groups how many syllables each word has.   

Tell learners to listen to the audio again to check their answers. 

⇒If you have chosen past simple regular verbs, e.g. watched also elicit the base form, e.g. watch, and ask: “Does the number of syllables change?” (=no)

⇒If you have chosen present simple 3rd person e.g. watches, also elicit the base form, e.g. watch, and ask: “Does the number of syllables change?” (=yes)

Take feedback: Draw a pyramid on the board. Invite learners to write the words in the correct space.  

To help learners: 

Tell them to hold their hands flat under their chin with their palms facing down and repeat the words out loud. They count how many times their jaw pushes their hand down: one push = one syllable. 

Team games

  1. Put learners in teams. Give each team a piece of chalk. Write a word on the board, e.g. liked. The first team to write the word in the correct space in the pyramid gets a point. 
  2. Each team has 2 pieces of large paper or card. On one they write ‘1’ and the other ‘2’. Write a word on the board, e.g. taxi. Give teams 10 seconds to discuss. Say: “Now!” Teams hold up their paper. 

You can use these activities with longer words, e.g. vegetable, information etc. Just draw a bigger pyramid on the board.


Base form: The form of the verb listed in the dictionary, without any endings (e.g. -s, -ed or -ing)

Jaw: The lower part of your face which moves when you open your mouth 

Syllable: A single unit of speech which contains a vowel sound (e.g. 'how' has one syllable; 'clever' has two syllables; 'photograph' has three syllables).