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Using -IE and -EI in Spelling Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Using -IE and -EI in Spelling

The vowel combination of i and e is a cause of frequent spelling errors. This lesson will explain when to use ie and when to use ei.

There is a clever mnemonic that outlines how and when to use the vowel combinations of ie and ei:

  • i before e, except after c or when sounding like -ay as in neighbor or weigh.

This mnemonic covers the rule fairly well. There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule, which we will cover in this lesson. But first, let's review the basic rule. In most words that have the letters i and e grouped together to produce a long e sound, the i will come before the e. This holds true except for words having a c immediately before this combination. For example, in the words piece and lien, the i comes before the e. In the words conceit and receive, the e comes before the i because the combination is preceded by a c.

In words where the i and e combination produce the sound -ay (as in neighbor or weigh from the mnemonic), the order is reversed. Other examples are reign, rein, beige, and vein.

Now, the exceptions. There are a few words that do not follow this rule at all. Luckily, there is a mnemonic that can help you to remember the exceptions. In this case, the mnemonic is a silly sentence: Neither leisure foreigner seized the weird heights, either. All of the words in that sentence—except for the—are exceptions to the rule. That sentence might just be strange enough to stick in your head and to help you remember the exceptions! If not, you will have to memorize the words, because if you try to spell them according to the ie / ei rules, you will end up spelling them incorrectly.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Using -IE and -EI in Spelling Practice Exercises

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