How should words like merry or very be syllabified in British English. I learned from the answer to my first question that words that have vowels like /ʌ ɪ ʊ ɛ/ should have a consonant after that vowel. So "obsessive" is /əb.sɛs.sɪv/ (the middle syllable has a consonant after the vowel ɛ).

Below is the paragraph from that answer: Yet another theory says that the consonant following the lax vowels /ʌ ɪ ʊ ɛ/ should be ambisyllabic. 'Ambisyllabic' means that it it belongs to both the preceding and the following syllable. So according to the ambisyllabicity theory, obsessive can be syllabified as:



But what if there is an r after the vowel ɛ in words like "merry" and "very"?

If I divide "very" into syllables as vɛr.i (because the vowel ɛ should have a consonant after it) then the first syllables ends in an r and in British English, words do not end in R sound (for example the R in "bar" is silent).

What should I do in the case I described above? How should one syllabify?


"Closed. This question needs details or clarity. It is not currently accepting answers."

It is strange that this question was closed. I have provided details in my question. Could you please tell me how else can I clarify it?

Is there really no way to do the division of those words? Please consider reopening my question; I really am confused as to how to do the division of those words. Thank you so much.

Why would you need to know this? For example, for writing music for singers:


more music

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    It's highly controversial. How else would you syllabify 'very' if you can't syllabify it as /ˈvɛ.ri/ or /ˈvɛr.i/? I don't think this question is answerable. (Cambridge English Dictionary syllabifies 'very' as /ˈver.i/ for BrE.) Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 7:36
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    This idea that British words (in non-rhotic Southern English dialects) never end in an r seems dubious, as non-rhotic English dialects use a linking r at the end of a word when it's followed by another vowel. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linking_and_intrusive_R If you think there's an r, transcribe it. (But remember that syllabification isn't a simple thing and there are a lot of disputes.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 10:31
  • @StuartF Those r's are pronounced because there are vowels after them. My question is completely different from what you are suggesting.
    – Guest1
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 12:09
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    @Guest1 you're talking about a situation where you have an "r" followed by a vowel. Everything I've seen suggests a linking "r" is pronounced similarly to a normal "r". Regardless, I agree with Decapitated Soul's comment.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 15:49
  • @Guest1: You say "Those r's are pronounced because there are vowels after them" ... so would you syllabify the "the idea of" with an intrusive /r/ as /ðiː.aɪˈdɪə.rəv/? Bur rov is not a word. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


In British English, you can syllabify them as /vɛr.i/ and /mɛr.i/ i.e. the r belongs to the previous syllable. For reference, you can see John Wells' syllabification (as he has done in Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) and Peter Roach's (Cambridge Online Dictionary)


er is a R-controlled syllable, so the r is needed to complete the R-Controlled vowel team -er. y stands alone because the y is a vowel in this word. It is acceptable to have a syllable with 1 vowel only, but not acceptable to have a syllable with 1 consonant only.

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