The word exercise has 3 syllables and divided as ex-er-cise. In teaching pronunciation can I divide it as ek-ser-cise since the letter x is the sound of ks together? It seems to make more sense.

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    You can, and in fact that's probably the best way to teach it. The word divisions for hyphenation only give the divisions for pronunciation some of the time. Oct 21, 2015 at 13:43
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    It can't be said too often: There is no consistent reliable set of rules for pronouncing English words from their spelling. Throw the alphabet away except for recognizing words, and use phonemics for teaching pronunciation. Kenyon and Knott is free online, and here's a chart of American phonemes with an example transcription. Oct 21, 2015 at 14:43
  • Thank you Peter and John. You guys have been so helpful and having that link to Kenyon and Knott is a gem.
    – user143693
    Oct 21, 2015 at 16:38
  • the phonetic spelling should be more like 'ek-sir-size'
    – AmI
    Nov 30, 2015 at 23:17

2 Answers 2


That is how the Miriam-Webster dictionary does it:


  noun ex·er·cise \ˈek-sər-ˌsīz\

Different reference works have different ways of dividing words into syllables. There's >usually< no issue about how many syllables a word has, but rather concerning where the breaks fall. My own practice is to honor the etymology where this is possible, as in lob-o-to-my, not lo-bot-o-my [Merriam Webster], or psy-cho-log-ist, not psy-chol-o-gist [American Heritage], Is "bot" a proper word element? Is "chol"?

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    It would be great if we all said 'loeb-oe-toem-ee', but you shouldn't blindly honor the etymology if you are teaching common prounciation.
    – AmI
    Nov 30, 2015 at 23:21

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