1. Basic English Spelling Facts 2. Spelling Clues 3. Word Families 4. More Families 5. Word Fun 6. Some Rules 8. Weird Words Say-it-in-English Entry Page

Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling

Lesson 7. More Spelling Rules That Work Sometimes

It is difficult to separate Spelling from Pronunciation, because in most languages one depends on the other.  The letters with which a word is spelled determine how that word is pronounced, OR  the way a word is pronounced determines which letters are used to spell that word.  This is true in the languages we are familiar with - French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic and others.   English often does not follow this pattern.

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Rule 1: There is a Rule that says if a one-syllable word  has a single vowel followed by a single consonant followed by a silent e, the first vowel is pronounced with a long vowel sound (the sound of the name of the letter).

For example, HAT with a short A sound becomes HATE with a Long A sound;  FAR with a Soft A sound becomes FARE with a  Long A sound; BIT with a Short I sound becomes BITE with a Long I sound; NOT with a Short O sound becomes NOTE with a Long O sound.  Here are several more words that follow this pattern of being pronounced with a long vowel sound with a silent E at the end:  

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GAL becomes GALE PAL  becomes PALE BAR becomes BARE CAR becomes CARE FAR becomes FARE
MAR  becomes MARE PAR  becomes PARE TAR  becomes TARE WAR becomes WARE WOK becomes WOKE
FAT  becomes FATE GAT  becomes GATE HAT becomes HATE MAT becomes MATE PAT becomes PATE
RAT becomes RATE MIL  becomes MILE "TIL becomes TILE PAN becomes PANE FIR becomes FIRE
SIR becomes SIRE DIM  becomes DIME RIM becomes RIME TIM becomes TIME DIN becomes DINE
FIN  becomes FINE PIN becomes PINE TIN becomes TINE WIN becomes WINE HER becomes HERE
CAM becomes CAME DAM becomes DAME GAM becomes GAME LAM becomes LAME TAM becomes TAME
WOK becomes WOKE BIT becomes BITE KIT becomes KITE SIT becomes SITE BAN becomes BANE
    MAN becomes MANE    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you depend on this rule to help you spell words that have long vowel sounds?  Sometimes.   The word families illustrated on previous pages give you many exceptions to worry about.  Example: When you hear a one-syllable word with a Long E sound, you may think, "This is a word with E + consonant + Silent E."  You would be correct if the word were 'HERE'.  But what about BEER, FEAR, TIER and the hundreds of other words that spell the Long E sound differently?

 

SOFT AND HARD C AND G

Rule 2: This is a Rule English shares, at least in part,  with several other languages.  The Rule says:

 

  • The letters  C and G are pronounced with a Soft sound (like S and J) if they are followed by an E or an I:

  • C and G are pronounced with a Hard sound (like K and G) if they are followed by A, O or U:

  • In order to indicate the K sound before E or I, the letter K is used: keg, ken, kill, kiss, kind.

  • In order to make the hard G sound before E or I, English is forced to use the letter G because no other letter stands for the same sound, which is inconsistent with the rule:  Sometimes, in order to maintain the hard G sound before E or I and still be consistent with the Rule, English will insert a silent U: guess, guide, guild.

  • The letter J is used to indicate the Soft G sound before A, O or U:   jar, jab, jolly, join, jump, just.

  • The S sound before E or I is many times spelled with the letter S: seem, send, sick, simple, etc.

  • The Soft G sound (J) is often spelled with the letter J: jest, jitter, jerk, jet, jingle.

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Soft C words Hard C words
cement cite camel correct
ceiling city carrot cotton
center citizen castle cube
certain circle camp cure
cession cycle come cucumber
cent cyber cut core

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soft G words Hard G words
gem giblet gab gas
gentle gesture gallon gather 
gerbil gelatin get,  together, 
giant gist go got
gym gymnasium ghost good
gyrate germ gun guppy
gut gold gum gobble

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A good example of the unpredictable nature of this rule is guilt (the fact of having broken a legal or moral law), pronounced with a Hard G because of the silent U after the G,  gilt  (gold-covered), pronounced the same way, with a Hard G, and in violation of the rule, and jilt , (to break off a romantic relationship when the other person doesn't want to), with a J which is pronounced with the Soft G sound and follows the rule.

CONCLUSION: Although there are some exceptions to this rule, you can rely on it most of the time.

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Rule 3:SHORT VOWEL SOUND BEFORE TWO CONSONANTS

In nearly all one-syllable words  that have a single vowel followed by two consonants, the single vowel will have a Short Vowel sound.  To relate this to spelling, if you hear a one-syllable word with a Short Vowel sound in it followed by a K sound, there is a good chance that the K sound will be spelled by CK.  In other cases, you should be able to hear the two final consonants:  -sh, -lk, -rk, -sk, -th, -ch, -nd.  The only way this may possibly help your spelling is,  if you hear a one-syllable word with a short vowel sound followed by  two consonants, you can be almost positive that the vowel sound is made by a single vowel.   

  • This rule can help you figure out how to spell some words: bake vs. back ; Long A sound = silent E at end, Short A sound = two consonants at end, but which consonants? Since the word ends with a K sound, odds are it will be a CK combination.  The same would be true with like vs. lick, lake vs. lack, take vs. tack, smoke vs. smock, etc.

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tack lick luck hock
tech lock dock pack
tick sack duck peck
tock sick mock pick
tuck sock muck puck
back suck hack rack
buck lack hick wreck

 

 

 

 

 

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rock hash posh bask
bash hush plush cask
bust lash rash mask
cash lush rush task
dash mash sash bath
dish mush such hath
gash gnash wish math

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path test sank wink
moth zest tank bunk
best bank link dunk
nest dank mink punk
pest lank pink sunk
rest rank sink with
      whisk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Short Vowel sounds can also be spelled in other ways; with a vowel followed by a single consonant:( bat, hit, set, got, nut) or by two vowels followed by a single consonant: (head, dead, said)

bat bet bit cot
fat debt fit dot
mat get hit hot
hat jet lit lot
pat let pit not
rat met sit pot
sat net wit rot
tat pet spit sot

 

 

 

 

 

 

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but bad bed kid
cut dad fed lid
gut fad led rid
hut gad red cod
jut had wed god
nut lad bid nod
rut mad did rod
shut pad hid sod

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cud ban dead bread
bud can dread thread
dud fan head threat
mud man deaf said
cat pan lead wet
got tan read pod
jot ran stead sad
set plan tread cad

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION: Following this rule to pronounce words will work most of the time.  Using it to guide your spelling will have only limited usefulness, but it will help you get a better feel of the English language.

Exercise: For each of the following words, write which spelling rule it illustrates, (Rule 1) Long Vowel + Silent E, (Rule 2)  Soft or Hard C and G, or (Rule 3) Short Vowel + Two Consonants.

1. fake = 7. check =
2. fact = 8. rack =
3. rice = 9. rake =
4. brick = 10. race =
5. brake = 11. hope =
6. cereal = 12. hock =

 

 

 

 

 

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13. gaggle = 19. here =
14. jiggle = 20. gold
15. kite = 21. cold
16. cite = 22. cell =
17. plane = 23. pick
18. plant = 24. stuck

For several more examples of English words that defy logic, go to the Next Page.      

100's of Popular Songs from the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.

Learn about American Culture through the popular songs of the time.     Practice reading Everyday English with the songs' Lyrics and the biographies of the singers and bands at  www.mikiemetric.com .

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