Verse and stanza

A verse is a set of words that follows a rhythm and measure specific . In addition, it represents the basic unit of a poem and, when it is joined to other verses, it forms a stanza. The verses follow metric licenses that allow them to have rhythmic schemes, generally include rhymes and can express emotions in a unique way.

stanza is a set of two or more verses structured according to its rhythm and measure. For a stanza to form, there must be at least two verses. One or more stanzas make up a poem and these may or may not maintain a relationship depending on their form, the use of repetitions and the rhythm or measure of their verses.

DefinitionIt is a set of words that is arranged according to a specific measure and rhythm.Set of verses that follow a rhythmic structure.
  • Basic unit of a poem.
  • It has a rhythm and a measure.
  • Their poetic syllables are not always the same as their grammatical syllables.
  • It should have a pause at the end.
  • Use metric licenses and other poetic devices.
  • One or more stanzas constitute a poem.
  • It must have at least two verses.
  • The stanzas of a poem can be related by their form, repetitions, and rhymes.
  • It can take an indefinite number of ways.
  • Its shape can be identified using a metric scheme.
  • Minor art: simple verse (without internal pause) and eight or less syllables.
  • Major art: simple or compound verse (with internal pause), of nine or more syllables.
  • It can be isometric (verses with the same number of syllables) or heterometric (verses with different number of syllables).
  • Depending on the number of verses, a stanza can be a couplet, a triplet, a quartet, a quintet, a tenth, a sonnet, a romance, etc.

What is a verse?

The verse is that set of words that is ordered according to a measure and a rhythm . A verse is the basic unit of the poem, and together, several verses make up a stanza. Each verse is separated from other verses following various stylistic parameters.

Its rhythm is altered by the number of syllables it has and its accents. To obtain its measurement , the accent of its last syllable and the metric licenses that have been used are considered.

The word verse comes from the Latin versus , and means ‘to turn’, ‘to turn towards or against’, ‘line’ or ‘row’. It involves the idea of ​​moving from one sentence to another.

Whoever writes a verse can use resources or metric (poetic) licenses to adjust its measure and syllabic count. Besides that, verse, as an artistic expression and basic unit of poetry, does not necessarily adhere to norms in the same way that other types of texts do.

Characteristics of a verse

  • It is the basic unit of a poem.
  • It has a rhythm.
  • There may be rhyme between one verse and others.
  • It has a measure according to the number of its poetic syllables, and this can be different from the total of its grammatical syllables.
  • Different metric licenses are used to adjust the number of its poetic syllables (synalephs, dialephs and syneresis).
  • It can be simple (11 syllables or less) or compound (12 syllables or more).
  • It can be minor art (8 or fewer syllables) or major art (9 or more syllables).
  • It must have a pause at the end, and, when it is composed, its internal pause is known as a caesura .
  • It uses stylistic devices (such as enjambment), which do not necessarily follow the grammatical rules that other types of text follow.

Rhythm and rhyme of a verse

The rhythm of a verse refers to its cadence; it is determined by its accents and the rhyme that exists between a verse and the others.

Both stressed syllables, where the weight of the voice falls when declaiming, and unstressed syllables (without accent), are used to define the length of a verse.

The rhyme occurs when the phonemes (sound) stressed syllables to the end of several lines coincide. This is classified as:

  • Consonant : when the consonants and vowels are equal at the end of the last syllable of the verse (versal syllable).
  • Asonant : when only the vowels are equal at the end of the last verses syllable.
  • Free : when the verses do not rhyme and do not follow any metric.
  • Let go : when one of the verses does not rhyme, but others do.

Also know the Difference between assonance rhyme and consonant rhyme .

The measure and accent of a verse

To measure a verse, the accented syllable in the last word of it must be considered. The syllables, in turn, are divided into stressed (those that have an accent on a word) and unstressed (the rest of words that are not stressed).

Grammatically, in Spanish, the words are classified into:

  • Agudas : accent on the last syllable. For example, heart (co / reason / zon ).
  • Graves : accent on the penultimate syllable. For example, transportation (trans / por / te).
  • Esdrújulas : accent on the penultimate syllable. For example, phone (te /  / fo / no).
  • Sobreesdrújulas : accent on a syllable before the penultimate. For example, quickly ( rá / pi / da / men / te).

To measure a verse, the accent that falls on the penultimate syllable (grave or flat) of a word is taken as a starting point to calculate how many syllables it has. This is why syllables are added or subtracted starting from the place where the last grave syllable is found.

The grammatical syllables do not always coincide with the poetic syllables of the same verse. Words with a grave accent are the reference for syllable counting. Therefore, if a verse ends in a serious word, its number of syllables remains the same. This type of verse is called a paroxitone verse .

However, if a verse ends in a high-pitched word, an extra syllable is added to the total number of syllables. This type of verse is called oxytonic verse .

In the event that the verse ends in an esdrújula, one syllable is subtracted from the total number of syllables it has. This type of verse is called a proparoxytone .

Types of verses (according to accentuation)Syllabic operation
Oxytone : final word of the acute verse (accentuation on the last syllable).One syllable is added to the total number of syllables in the verse.
Paroxitone : grave or flat final word (accentuation on the penultimate syllable).The number of syllables in the verse is maintained.
Proparoxytone and superproparoxytone : final word esdrújula or sobreesdrújula (stress on the third to last syllable)One syllable is subtracted from the total number of syllables in the verse.

Oxytone verse example

Let the hurricane move my heart!

(Verse extracted from Of Autumn , of Rubén Darío).

This verse has 12 grammatical syllables and, when ending in an acute word, a syllable is added to it, for a total of 13 poetic syllables.

Example of paroxitone verse

Seeing my hours of fever

(Verse extracted from Rima LV , by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer).

Here, the verse has 8 grammatical syllables and, since in a grave word, it remains with 8 poetic syllables.

Proparoxytone verse example

A child brought the white sheet

(Verse extracted from La cogida y la muerte , by F. García Lorca).

In this case, the verse has 11 grammatical syllables and ends in an esdrújula word, so a syllable is subtracted, resulting in a total of 10 poetic syllables.

syllabic computation

The verses can be isosyllabic (if they have the same number of syllables) or anisoyllabic (if they do not have the same number of syllables), when they are more than two together.

To count the number of syllables in a verse, when it is already known whether a verse is oxytone, paroxytone or proparoxytone, an analysis is carried out of the way in which each one is written.

When performing the syllabic count, its graphic punctuation is not taken into consideration. It is defined until the end of its line, regardless of whether it ends in a comma, period or another punctuation mark, or simply in a blank space.

Metric licenses

Grammatically, the lines or sentences that make up a verse have a specific number of syllables. However, when counting the syllables of a verse, consider the various metric licenses that the writer used to adjust the number of syllables (and the type of verse) to a specific number.

The rhythm of a verse is produced thanks to the number of syllables it has and its accents or intonation. The metric syllables of the verse are defined according to these metric licenses: synalepha, dialepha, and syneresis.


Sinalefa occurs when the last syllable of a word that ends in a vowel is joined with the syllable of the next word, which begins in a vowel. For example: “T e ntiend o, a londr a mada.”

In the example above, the grammatical syllables that are counted are ten: te / en / tien / do, / a / lon / dra / a / ma / da; but the poetic syllables produced by the sinalefa are barely seven: te en / tie / do, a / lon / dra a / ma / da.


We are in the presence of a dialeph when it has been decided to avoid synalepha, which means that the separate vowels of a diphthong are separated in pronunciation. The way to signal this is by placing an umlaut over the weak vowel to be separated. For example: “My conscience “.

In the suggested example, there are grammatical syllables box: mi / cons / cien / cia. However, if we apply the dialeph, the four syllables would count as five: mi / cons / cï / en / cia.


In syneresis, the two contiguous vowels join in a single syllable that would normally produce a hiatus. In this sense, in syneresis, the hiatus is held together in pronunciation, as if it were a diphthong. For example: “Em peo ra”.

In the example referred to, the grammatical syllables would be four: em / pe / o / ra. However, when applying syneresis, these would be reduced to three for the purposes of verse meter: em / peo / ra.

Types of verses

The verses can be divided and classified in different ways, depending on whether or not they have internal pauses (simple or compound verses), or according to the number of syllables (major and minor art).

Simple or compound verses

When a verse has 11 syllables or less it is considered as a simple verse , since it does not present an internal division or pause. If it has 12 syllables or more, it is considered as a compound verse , since it has an internal pause.

Verses of minor or major art

The verses are also classified according to the number of syllables they are composed of: minor art if they have eight syllables or less, or major art , if they have nine syllables or more.

Name of verses (according to number of syllables)

  • Bisílabos (2)
  • Trisyllables (3)
  • Tetrasyllables (4)
  • Pentasílabos (5)
  • Hexasyllables (6)
  • Heptasyllables (7)
  • Octosyllables (8)
  • Aeneasyllables (9)
  • Decasyllables (10)
  • Endecasílabos (11)
  • Twelve syllables (12)
  • Tridecasílabos (13)
  • Tetradecasyllables or Alexandrines (14)
  • Pentadecasílabos (15)
  • Hexadecasyllables (16)
  • Heptadecasílabos (17)
  • Octodecasílabos (18)
  • Enneadecasyllables (19)

Types of pauses in a verse

  • Estrophic pause : occurs at the end of a stanza and is mandatory.
  • Versal pause : occurs at the end of the verse and is mandatory.
  • Cesura : it is an internal pause that occurs in compound verses, divides the verse into two (or more) hemistichs and cancels the sinalefa.
  • Internal pause : any other internal pause that is not a caesura.

Cesura and hemistiquio

The caesura is an internal pause in a verse when reciting it. This can be presented to some extent in verses of minor art; however, it is more common in verses of major art.

The parts into which the verse is divided are known as hemistichs . The same metric used in a verse applies to each hemistich. This means that the stressed syllable of the last word of the hemistich is considered as if it were the end of a verse. Furthermore, there is no synalepha (vowels of different consecutive words are not joined) between the two hemistichs of the verse.


An overlap occurs when the phrase (a series of words that makes sense in unity) of a verse does not end in a verse pause (at the end of the verse), but ends in the next verse.

The encirclement has two parts: one is the encircling part (where the verse originates) and the other is the encircling part (the next verse where the sentence continues).

Furthermore, overrides can be classified as soft if the overriding verse ends until the end of the overlying verse; or as abrupt, if the hoisting verse ends abruptly in the hoisting verse.

Override typeDescription
Internal or medialIt happens between the hemistiques of a compound verse.
LexiconDivide a word between two verses.
SirrematicPause in a syntactic unit or phrase that should not be separated (for example, separating an article from its noun, or a noun from an adjective). This pause occurs where the caesura of a composed verse is.

Example of internal enjambment

His verse is sweet and serious: monotonous rows
of winter poplars where nothing shines;
lines like furrows in brown fields,
and far away, the blue mountains of Castile.

(Fragment of My poets , by Antonio Machado).

In this fragment, the medial overhang is in the words “mountains” and “blue”, marked in bold. This verse is of major art, 14 syllables, divided by the caesura between these words.

Example of lexical overlap

And while wretch
 are embracing others
with unquenchable thirst
of the dangerous command,
lying in the shade is singing.

(Fragment of Ode I, Retired Life , by Fray Luis de León).

In this fragment, the enjambment splits the word “miserably” in two, between the first and second lines. It also has three verses in minor art and two verses in major art.

Example of sirrhematic overrun

The youth of the year, the ambitious
shame of the garden, the red
smelling ruby
 , shortened shot,
also of the year beautiful presumption:

(Fragment of The youth of the year , by Francisco de Quevedo).

In this fragment it is possible to observe that there are two syrremmatic overlaps, between the sentence “the ambitious shame of the garden”, which is divided between the first and second verses; and between the sentence “the red odorous ruby”, divided between the second and third lines. All the verses in this stanza are of major art, of 11 syllables each.

Also know the Difference between prose and verse .

What is a stanza?

A stanza is a set of two or more verses that follow a rhythmic structure . A poem can be made up of one or more stanzas.

The word stanza comes from the Greek strophe , and means ‘to turn’ or ‘to turn’ and refers to when the Greek choir in the plays or odes sang, while moving from one place to another in the scene.

The stanzas are classified according to the number of verses and the rhythm they have, within a fixed scheme or rhythmic axis throughout a poem.

Characteristics of a stanza

  • It must be made up of at least two verses.
  • A poem can have an indefinite number of stanzas.
  • The stanzas of a poem can maintain a formal relationship due to repetitions and rhymes.
  • A metric scheme is used to visualize both its measurement and its rhyme.
  • It can be isometric (verses that have the same number of syllables) or heterometric (verses with different number of syllables).
  • It can take an indefinite number of ways.

Number of stanzas in a poem

Poems can have one or more stanzas. When a poem only has one it is known as monostrophic . A poem that has more than one stanza is known as a polyestrophic .

Poliestrophic poems differ from each other by the way in which the verses of their stanzas have been written. They can present repetitions of verses or parts of them, as well as the use of shared rhymes between their stanzas. These poems can be:

  • Chained : there is a repetition at the end of the lines of the poem, which chains one stanza to the other.
  • Loose : its stanzas are independent units, there is no repetition at the end of the verses.
  • Parallelistic : they have consonant rhymes at the end of verses and in pairs.
  • Engarzados : from the second stanza, each stanza repeats a verse from the first stanza.

Metric scheme

The metric scheme is an alphanumeric representation of the measure and rhyme of the verses and stanzas. To form a metric scheme, consider the following:

  • The number of phonetic (metric) syllables in a verse is expressed in numbers.
  • The verses are assigned a letter and follow the order of the alphabet (a, b, c, d …).
  • When it comes to a verse of major art, the letter used is capitalized. In the case of minor art verses, a lowercase letter is used.

Example of the metric scheme of a stanza

I am a sincere man
Where the palm grows,
And before I die I want to
cast my verses from the soul.

(Fragment of I am a sincere man , by José Martí).

Next, you can see how the metric scheme of this fragment is composed, according to its syllabic computation:

Versessyllabic computationMetric scheme
I am an honest manI / am a / man / bre / sin / ce / ro = 7 syllables.7a
Where does the palm grow from?From / don / from / cre / ce / la / pal / ma = 8 sílabas8b
And before I die I wantY before / tes / de / mo / rir / me / quie / ro = 8 syllables8a
Cast my verses from the soul.E / char / mis / ver / sos / del / al / ma = 8 syllables8b

As can be seen in this example, this stanza has minor art verses, as it does not exceed eight syllables. According to the rhyme at the end of each verse, its metric scheme is therefore: 7a-8b-8a-8b

Stanza types

The stanzas can be presented in many different ways, with many different combinations of verses. These can be isometric (if your verses have the same number of syllables) or heterometric (if your verses do not have the same number of syllables).

Among the most used in Spanish, are the following:

NameVersesArt and rhymeMetric Scheme Examples
Semi-detached2Minor or major art; consonant or asonant rhyme.AA, Aa, aA, aa
Terceto3Major art, consonant rhyme.ABA, BCB
Quartet4Major art, consonant rhyme.ABBA
Round4Minor art, consonant rhyme.abba
Quatrain4Minor art, consonant rhyme.abab
Sash4Major art, consonant rhyme.YYYY
Quintet5Major art, consonant rhyme.ABABA, ABAAB
Lira5Major or minor art, consonant rhyme.aBabB
Royal Octave8Major art, consonant.ABABABCC
Tenth10Minor art, consonant rhyme.abbaaccddc
Sonnet14Major art, consonant rhyme.ABBA ABBA CDC DCD
RomanceUnlimitedMinor art, asonant rhyme (each pair of verses).-a-a-a-a-a…

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