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Dividing Spanish Words at the End of a Line

Rules of Syllabification

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The basic rule of word division at the end of a line in Spanish is that the divided word in a new line typically begins with one consonant unit or a strong vowel. This can yield different results than in English, so if you're using word-processing software designed for English, you should either turn off the word-division feature or divide words manually when you're writing in Spanish.

The following rules of word division apply to most words you're likely to use:

No syllable starts with more than one consonant unit: A "consonant unit" for the purposes of word division is either a single consonant (as in English, typically any letter other than a, e, i, o and u) or one of the following combinations, which (except in rare exceptions) are not separated:

  • bl
  • br
  • ch
  • cl
  • cr
  • dr
  • fl
  • fr
  • gl
  • gr
  • ll
  • pl
  • pr
  • qu
  • rr
  • tr
Additionally, divided words don't end in a consonant if a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) follows.

Note how these rules apply to the following words: ga-to, si-la-bi-fi-ca-ción, pe-rro, in-cre-í-ble, par-te, glo-sa-rio, chis-te, ca-lle, tri-ple, flo-ri-da, com-pra-do, por-que, ex-pli-car, in-no-va-ción, in-gles, fe-cha.

Diphthongs are not divided: As a practical matter, this rule means that a u or an i is not separated from an adjacent vowel unless the u or i is accented and is next to a "strong" vowel (a, e or o). Other adjacent vowels can be separated.

See how this rule applies in the following words: fui-mos, bue-no, ciu-dad, cre-er, puer-to, fe-os, fe-as, plei-to, des-pier-ta, ha-bí-an, rí-os, u-to-pí-as.

Single letters avoided: Unless you're dealing with very narrow columns of type, you should not leave a single letter standing by itself on one line. Thus, while you may divide ríos, you should avoid dividing río.

Keep prefixes intact: You may break the first rule above to keep a prefix intact. Thus, sub-ur-bio, not su-bur-bio, and des-or-den, not de-sor-den.

The rr exception: When a prefix ending in a vowel precedes a word that begins with an r, the r typically doubled, as in prorrumpir and contrarrevolución. When such words are divided after the prefix, the rr on the following line reverts to a single r. For example, if prorrumpir is divided after the prefix, it becomes pro-rumpir, not pro-rrumpir, and if contrarrevolución is divided, it becomes contra-revolución.

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