In English, the most prevalent foot are the iamb, trochee, dactyl, and anapest. Two feet are merged into a bigger unit termed a metron (pl. metra) or dipody in various types of metre, such as the Greek iambic trimeter. A foot is a discrete unit of language used for syllabication rather than as part of a word.
Of these, the iamb is by far the most common, appearing in almost every line of English poetry. The other three feet appear only occasionally. An iamb is any verse line composed of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, as in love and labor's two things never mixed. A trochaic line has a strong stress on the first syllable and a weak stress on the second, as in proud and high. A dactylic line has a strong stress on both its syllables, as in fly and cry. An anapestic line contains the same number of syllables as anapaests, which are lines ending with a half-syllable that is not pronounced, as in moonless night.
Iambic pentameter is the most common type of metre in English poetry. It is composed of five pairs of metrically identical iambic feet, each pair separated by a spondee: love and labor, life and death, heaven and hell, etc.
Summary of the Lesson Iambs, trochees, anapests, and dactyls are the four most prevalent varieties of metrical foot. When discussing the meter of a poem, we employ a two-word term (for example, "iambic pentameter") to define what metrical feet are and how many metrical feet the meter utilizes. Iambic pentameter is the most common meter in English poetry, so it is not unusual for people to know this fact without knowing how to identify each type of foot.
Iambic feet are composed of one syllable ending with a short sound and one syllable ending with a long sound. In iambic poetry, the first foot must be either a strong syllable or a weak syllable depending on how you look at it. Only twice during the course of a line will both feet be strong syllables. Otherwise, one foot will be a weak syllable and the other a strong syllable.
In regular English, every other word starts with a consonant. This is because English is a phonetic language and most words contain equal numbers of vowels and consonants. However, this isn't true of all languages, such as Greek which is why some poets use this trait to their advantage by beginning their lines with unique and interesting sounds. The only way to determine if a line of poetry contains more consonants than others is to read it aloud and note how many times you hear a consonant sound.
In English poetry, the most common forms of foot are the iamb, trochee, dactyl, anapest, spondee, and pyrrhic (two unstressed syllables). These names come from the bones of the foot: the big toe represents the iamb, the second toe represents the trochee, and so forth. The term "foot" is also used for any group of two or more adjacent lines or stanzas.
The iamb is a foot composed of one stressed and one unstressed syllable. It is the basic building block of English verse. The first line of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is an example of an iambic pentameter: it consists of five iambs (one-syllable units) with a pentameter structure (five feet) ending in a rhyming couplet. Many poems written by other poets contain iambs as well. For example, the first line of John Milton's Paradise Lost is an iambic pentameter: it consists of five iambs (one-syllable units) with a pentameter structure (five feet) ending in a rhyming couplet.
The trochee is a foot composed of one stressed and one unstressed syllable. It is used extensively in Greek and Roman poetry, especially epic poetry.