1  Basic English Spelling Facts

 2  Spelling Clues

 4  More Families

 5  Word Fun

 6  Some Rules  7  More Rules  8  Weird Words Say-it-in-English Entry Page

Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling

Lesson 3. Word Families Share the Same Sounds


1. Words that have the Long A+R sound. This sound is represented by several different spelling combinations in English: -AIR, -ARE, -ERR, -EIR.   If you think of the different spellings as different families, then you can remember how to spell the words by remembering what family they are part of.

fair hair care ware glare stare
repair unfair dare beware mare pare
lair stair bare rare scare tare
pair affair error terror fare hare
heir err terrible terrier flare flair
chair bear tear air compare merry







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 2. Words that have the Long E+R sound. This sound is represented by the following spellings: -EAR, -EER, -ERE, -IER .  Remember the words as part of a family. 

dear sear tear beer steer career bier
ear rear year deer veer here tier
fear near clear jeer peer mere spear
gear hear smear leer queer interfere sincere

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3. Words that have the Long A+T sound. This sound is represented by the following spellings: -ATE, -AIT, -EAT, -EIGHT, -AIGHT.  Four of the groups, or Families, are rather small,  so you should be able to remember them easily. 

ate gate pate state bait great grate
bate hate rate rebate gait eight trait
date late sate plate wait freight straight
fate mate rotate crate plait weight plait






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4. Words that have the Long A + N sound. This sound is represented by the following spellings: -ANE, -AIN, -EIGN, -EIN. Study and learn the words as part of a group or family.  

Memory Helpers: "The man down the lane hit Jane with a cane." "What will you gain if you remain in the rain?" "Cain tried in vain to explain why Able was slain."

bane mane wane gain slain refrain rein
cane pane crane main explain maintain vein
Dane plane Cain pain detain deign skein
Jane sane chain rain remain feign Wayne
lane vane drain vain contain reign domain








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5. Words with the Long E + N sound can be seen next: This sound is produced with the following sets of letters: -EEN, -EAN, -ENE, -INE.  The first two groups are the main ones, so you should study them well.

Memory Helpers: "I've seen the teen queen preen between dates." "The mean Dean made me clean every bean."

between keen bean mean gene xylene dexodrine
careen preen dean wean neoprene gasoline Murine
seen spleen jean clean kerosene Vasoline green
teen queen lean scene carotene Visine marine

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6. Words that have the  Long A + L sound: This sound is made by these letter combinations: -ALE, -AIL, -EIL.  The first two are by far the most common, and the only way to learn which words belong in which group is to STUDY, MEMORIZE, READ and WRITE the words as much as you can.

  • Memory Helpers: "The pale male whale got caught in the gale."  "The man from Yale bought a bale of kale that was on sale."  "If you fail to make bail, you'll get your next mail in jail."

bale male vale flail pail wail trail
dale pale Yale hail rail retail Brail
hale sale ail jail sail derail veil
gale tale bail mail snail entail  
kale whale fail nail tail frail  

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7. Words that have the Schwa + R sound: A SCHWA is the name of a vowel sound and of the linguistic symbol used to denote that sound. The symbol is an upside-down small printed "e" , sometimes with a colon (:) after it, and the sound it represents is a middle-of-the-mouth, nothing special one, the sound you might make as you try to think of what to say next.  In writing, this sound might be represented like this: "Uhh."  The schwa sound is very common in English words.  Here are several examples. In all the one-syllable words, the vowel will sound like a Schwa, while in the multi-syllable words, the red letters will sound like a schwa.  Notice that each of the letters U, E, O, OU and A  are used to make the SCHWA sound in various words.

about  - the  - of - ridiculous
bird burn shirt lurk burger
dirt fur work turkey derby
flirt jury perk shirk hurry
skirt turn jerk clerk smirk
flurry murder nurse word learn
ago annul asparagus banana bishop
bottom calypso census circle condition

NOTE: I had to check many of these words in the dictionary to be sure they really did contain the SCHWA sound.  You can do that, also.  Somewhere in the dictionary will be a guide to  the various linguistic symbols used and what sounds they stand for, and in the body of the dictionary, after each word, you should find the symbols used to describe how each word is pronounced.













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8.  Words that have the -ANK, -INK, -ONK, or -UNK sounds: Words that have the same letter combinations will sound the same, so if you know what one word sounds like, you will be able to pronounce the other words that are spelled with the same letters.

bank hank thank drink sink honk flunk
blank lanky yank fink shrink Tonka toy gunk
blanket plank binky kink think bunk hunk
canker rank blink link tinker chunk junk
crank sank chink mink wink clunker punk
dank spank clink pink bonk dunk sunk
flank tank dinky rink donkey drunk trunk

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9.  Words that end with -ASH, -ESH, -ISH, -OSH, -USH:  These words will usually contain a Short Vowel sound. The only exceptions I can think of right now are WASH, which has a Soft A sound.  and BUSH and PUSH.   All the other words that are spelled with the same letters will sound alike.

bash flash Nash trash famish foolish hush
cash gash rash flesh flourish gosh lush
clash hash sash mesh swish josh mush
crash lash slash dish wish posh plush
dash mash splash fish bosh blush rush

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 We have described an effective way to study spelling words on some of the other pages, including the  Spelling Clues page.  Use that method to study any of the words on this page that you do not already know well.  With the Word Families especially, it will be important to have someone dictate the words to you as you spell them and use them in sentences so you get used to the sounds of the words and their relationship to their spelling.

To see More Word Families, click HERE.

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