Monday, 29 August 2016


Although English is a language with more exceptions than rules, we can improve our spelling by learning some basic rules and hope that the word we don't know follows the pattern.

1. The sound /ɪ/ ="ie", except after c
believe - receive

2. Plurals: changing "Y" into "IES"
When the word ends in a vowel + y just add ‘s’:

key → keys
delay → delays
trolley → trolleys
(because we can't have three vowels in a row)

If the word has a consonant before the ‘Y’, remove the ‘Y’ and add ‘IES’:

baby → babies
company → companies
difficulty → difficulties

3. Adding -ES to words ending in -s, -ss, -z -ch -sh -x:
This was added to stop the plural 's' clashing with these letters and it softens the 's' sound to a 'z' sound

bus→ buses
business → businesses
watch → watches
box → boxes
quiz → quizzes

4. The "consonant:vowel:consonant" doubling up rule:

put - putting, big-bigger, quiz - quizzes, swim - swimming...

When a word has one syllable and it ends in "consonant:vowel:consonant", we double up the final consonant with a vowel suffix:

sit - sitter, big - biggest, tap - tapping, shop - shopper/shopping, fat - fatten, fattening, fatter, fattest...

This happens in longer words when the stress is on the final syllable:

begin (beGIN) - beginner, beginning
refer (reFER) - referring, referred
occur (ocCUR) - occurring, occurred, occurrence

5. Drop the ‘e’ rule
We usually drop the final silent "e" when we add vowel suffix endings, for example:

write + ing → writing
hope + ed = hoped
excite + able = excitable
joke - joker
large - largish
close - closing
sense + ible = sensible
opposite + ion = opposition
imagine + ation = imagination

We keep the 'e' if the word ends in –CE or –GE to keep a soft sound, with able/ous

courage + ous = courageous
outrage + ous = outrageous
notice + able = noticeable
manage + able = manageable

6. Changing the "y" to "i" when adding suffix endings:
If a word ends in a consonant + Y, the Y changes to I (unless adding endings with "i": -ing/-ish, which already begins with an i)
beauty+ful > beauti+ful =beautiful, beautify, beautician
happy + ness = - happiness, happily, happier, happiest
angry + er = angrier, angriest, angrily,
pretty: prettier, prettiest BUT prettyish
ready: readily, readiness
dry: dried, BUT drying, dryish
defy: defies, defied, but defying
apply: applies, applied but applying

7. "-f" to "-ves" or "-s": Most words ending in "-f" or "-fe" change their plurals to "-ves"

calf - calves
half - halves
knife - knives
leaf - leaves
loaf - loaves
life - lives
wife - wives
shelf - shelves
thief - thieves
yourself - yourselves

BUT nouns which end in two vowels plus -f usually form plurals in the normal way, with just an -s:

chief - chiefs
spoof - spoofs
roof - roofs
chief - chiefs
oaf - oafs
EXCEPTIONS: thief - thieves, leaf - leaves

Some words can have both endings -ves or -s:

scarf - scarfs/scarves
dwarf - dwarfs/dwarves
wharf - wharfs/wharves
handkerchief - handkerchiefs/handkerchieves

Words ending in -ff you just add -s to make the plural:

cliff - cliffs
toff - toffs
scuff - scuffs
sniff - sniffs

8. Words ending in -ful
The suffix –FUL is always spelled with one L, for example:

grate + ful = grateful
faith + ful = faithful
hope + ful = hopeful

9. Adding -ly
When we add -ly to words ending in -ful then we have double "l":


We also add -ly to words ending in 'e':

love + ly = lovely
like + ly = likely
live + ly = lively
complete + ly = completely
definite + ly = definitely

BUT not in truly (true + ly) This is a common misspelled word.
We change the end 'e' to 'y' in these "-le" words:

gentle > gently
idle > idly
subtle > subtly

10. When we add "all" to the beginning of words we drop the "l":

all + so = also
all + most = almost
altogether (adverb=in total, on the whole, completely)

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