Using -IA and -AI in Spelling Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Using -IA and -AI in Spelling

Another tricky vowel combination that tends to cause spelling errors is ai / ia. This lesson will show you when to use each of these combinations.

MUCH AS WITH the ie / ei vowel combinations, the combination of ai or ia can be confusing. If you reverse the correct order of the vowel combinations, you will end up with an incorrectly spelled word. But there is an easy way to remember when to use ai and when to use ia. In fact, if you are tired of rules that seem complicated or full of exceptions, you are in luck with the rules for this vowel combination.

The rules for using ai and ia are simple: There are two situations when you should use ai and two when you should use ia. You should use ai

  1. when the vowel combination makes the uh sound. Words like villain, fountain, and captain use the ai combination.
  2. when the vowel combination makes a long a sound. Remember that When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking. With words that have the long a sound, the combination is always ai and not ia. Words like train and abstain use the ai combination.

You should use ia

  1. when each vowel is pronounced separately. Words like median, alleviate, and auxiliary use the ia combination.
  2. when you add the -al ending to certain words. When a word ends in -y and you need to add the suffix -al, you must first change the -y to an -i and then add -al. In those cases, you will use the ia vowel combination, regardless of pronunciation. The word controversial illustrates this rule. Controversial is formed from the word controversy and the suffix -al. When adding the suffix, you change the y to an i and add -al: controversial. Even though the two vowels are not pronounced separately, they appear in the order ia because the i is taking the place of a y.

As you can see, you need to think about pronunciation in order to determine proper spelling in most situations. If you pronounce words with the ai and ia combinations incorrectly, you could set yourself up to spell them incorrectly as well. Pay attention to how words are pronounced and you will be more likely to use ai and ia correctly.

Here is a list of common words that use the two vowel combinations. As you read through the list, say each word out loud. Listen to how it sounds, and note whether it includes the ai or the ia combination. If you are unfamiliar with any words on the list, look them up in your dictionary and write out their meanings so you will know the words in the future.

Using ia and ai

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Using -IA and -AI In Spelling Practice Exercises

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