Introduction: Iambic Pentameter Scansion

When you scan and mark a line of poetry notating the pattern and how many times the pattern occurs, it is called scansion. We are going to practice scansion together a few times before you have to do it on your own.


  • Practice with iambic pentameter worksheet
  • Two different colored pens or pencils
  • a dictionary

Step 1: Review

Refer to your notes and review the definitions of meter, foot, and penta.

Step 2: What Is Required

In iambic pentameter you need:

  • ten syllables in the line
  • every syllable has to fall in the unstressed/ stressed pattern
  • The pattern has to happen five times

Step 3: Count the Syllables

Look at your worksheet.

Step 4: Lets Try Number 1 Together

We know we need ten syllables for iambic pentameter. I have used the blue arrows to count the syllables. How many do we have?

Step 5: Double Check Your Multi-syllable Words

Pilgrim is the only multi-syllable word. If we looked at the pronunciation key in the dictionary, it shows us the first syllable (pil) is stressed. The stress is notated by the little stress mark pointing towards the syllable. I have used a blue arrow to point the stress mark out.

Step 6: Lets Mark Our Stresses

Lets start by marking our multi-syllable word. An unstressed syllable is notated with the curve ( like the letter u for unstressed ). A stressed syllable is marked by a slash mark.

  • Then we can see if the rest of the syllables fit the pattern too.
  • Tip: Single syllable words can function as a stressed or unstressed syllable. They are interchangeable.

Step 7: Mark the Other Syllables

All of the other words do follow the unstressed/ stressed pattern ( an iamb).

Step 8: How Many Times Does the Pattern Happen

Draw a line every time you see a complete iamb ( unstressed/ stressed) pattern.

Step 9: How Many Patterns Do You Have

Penta is Greek for the number five. You need the iamb pattern to happen five times for iambic pentameter to work. We have five iambs in our sample sentence.

Step 10: Double Check We Have All the Criteria

In iambic pentameter you need:

  • ten syllables in the line
  • every syllable has to fall in the unstressed/ stressed pattern
  • the pattern has to happen five times

Our sample sentence has all the correct criteria.

Step 11: Try Number Two, Then Check Your Answer Below

Step 12: Finish the Remaining Three Lines on Your Own

3) This wind you talk of blows us from ourselves.

4) Supper is done, and we shall come too late.

5) We’ll measure them a measure and be gone.