Common Spelling Rules, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Grammar Review Study Guide (page 3)
Exercises for this concept can be found at Common Spelling Rules, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Grammar Review Practice Exercises.
Just how important is spelling anyway? Well, it can make the difference between someone understanding and appreciating your idea and someone walking away baffled. How important is that to you? You know, it wasn't that long ago when students had only dictionaries to turn to in order to check their spelling errors, and not the ones on the Internet, but the books on shelves that lined the walls in classrooms and libraries. In this high-tech age, when computers line the walls of classrooms and libraries, and are turning into common household items, many think that dictionaries are becoming a thing of the past—what with the convenience of "spell check" just the click of a mouse away. But don't be too quick to throw that dictionary away just yet! It could come in handy more than you think. Take a look at this.
Ewe mite knot awl weighs sea yore riding miss takes write a weigh, sew ewe halve two Czech care fully. Men knee mite yews tulles, like ay computer, two tri too fined and altar thee mist aches, butt sum thymes it seas write thru them.
The English language has 26 letters in its alphabet (21 consonants and 5 vowels) and 19 different vowel combinations to make up a total of 44 sounds, called phonemes. It would be easy if all you had to do was memorize 44 sounds to help you spell words … but, alas, this is English, and these 44 sounds are spelled in almost 1,000 different ways, thus making the household dictionary not obsolete, but a necessity. Spelling rules and patterns can help you learn to spell many words, although you must keep in mind that you'll regularly run into rule exceptions. Let's take a look at some basic spelling rules.
Common Spelling Rules
Words with ei or ie
Have you heard this mnemonic before?
Write i before e except after c or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.
Following are some exceptions to the rule.
either, neither, seize, seizure, leisure, weird, foreign, height, glacier, ancient, being, feisty, protein, counterfeit, sovereign
Doubling the Final Consonant
When a one-syllable word (bat, can, put) ends with a consonant (bat, can, put) that is preceded by one vowel (bat, can, put), you should double the final consonant before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel (e.g., -ed, -ing, -er). For instance:
bat batting batted batter can canning canned canner
When a multisyllable word (patrol, forget, occur) ends with a consonant (patrol, forget, occur) that is preceded by a vowel (patrol, refer, occur), and ends with a stressed syllable (pa-TROL, re-FER, oc-CUR), you should double the final consonant before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel (e.g., -ed, -ing, -al, -ence, -ant). For instance:
repel repelling repelled repellant refer referring referred referral occur occurring occurred occurrence
Fuel For Thought
If the multisyllable word ends with a consonant preceded by a vowel, but has its final syllable unstressed (TRA-vel, HON-or, REV-el), do not double the final consonant before adding the suffix (e.g., -ing, -ed, -er, -ary). For instance:
travel traveling traveled traveler honor honoring honored honorary revel reveling reveled reveler
Also, words ending in -x, -y, or -w do not double the final consonant before adding a suffix. For instance:
mix mixing mixed mixer crow crowing crowed crower play playing played player
Last, words whose final consonant are preceded by two vowels do not double the final consonant before adding a suffix. For instance:
reveal revealing revealed revealer wait waiting waiting waiter
When a prefix being added to a word ends with the same letter the main word begins with, include both letters in the new word. For instance:
mis + spell = misspell
un + necessary = unnecessary
il + logical = illogical
Likewise, when a suffix is being added to a word that ends with the same letter the suffix begins with, include both letters in the new word. For example:
- musical + ly = musically
- open + ness = openness
- even + ness = evenness
According to this rule, eighteen should be spelled eight + teen = eightteen, but it is not.
Finally, when you are making a compound word and the final consonant letter of the first word is the same as the first consonant letter of the second word, include all letters, even if the letters are repeated. For example:
- can + not = cannot
- book + keeper = bookkeeper
- news + stand = newsstand
According to this rule, pastime should be spelled past + time = pasttime, but it is not.
The Silent E
When a word ends with a silent e, the e is dropped before adding the suffix that begins with a vowel (e.g., -ing, -ed, -er, -able). For instance:
use using used user usable debate debating debated debater debatable move moving moved mover movable
When a suffix is being added that begins with a consonant (e.g., -ly, -ment, -ful), leave the e at the end of the word. For instance:
love lovely agree agreement grace graceful
Fuel For Thought
Words tht end in -ce and -ge and have a suffix beginning with -a or -o added to it (e.g., -able and -ous) keep the final e. For instance:
outrage outrageous enforce enforceable courage courageous service serviceable
Also, words that end in -ee keep the final e before some suffixes beginning with a vowel (e.g., -ing, -able). For instance:
agree agreeing agreeable see seeing seeable foresee foreseeing foreseeable
Finally, there are words that don't follow the aforementioned rules and whose spelling will need to be memorized. For instance:
argument truly ninth
These words keep the final e because dropping it would lead the reader to think it was a completely different word. For instance:
Without the e, the word would read "fa-la-la" singing, not "oh, this is burning" singeing. For another instance:
Without the e, the word would read "soon to be not living" dying, not "I prefer this shade of red for streaking my hair" dyeing.
Words Ending in -Y
When -y is the final letter, change the -y to -i before adding the suffix. For instance:
happy happily happiness lazy lazily laziness faulty faultily faultiness
If this suffix being added to the word ending in y begins with an -i (e.g., -ing), the y should remain. For example:
try trying qualify qualifying horrify horrifying
When the -y at the end of the word is preceded by a vowel, the -y is not changed but remains the same when a suffix is added. For instance:
employ employing employed employment annoy annoying annoyed annoyance enjoy enjoying enjoyed enjoyment
Here are some words that don't follow this rule.
day daily gay gaily say said pay paid lay laid
-tion, -cian, or -sion
The "shun" sound, spelled three different ways (-tion, -cian, -sion), is pronounced the same in all three spellings. Each suffix, though, is used with different kinds of root words. How will you know which one to choose? It's simple. Take a look.
Here is a list of words ending in -cian. Can you see a pattern for the spelling rule this suffix will follow?
electrician musician physician politician beautician magician optician mathematician
All of these -cian words involve people and their careers or hobbies. So, -cian is used only when the spelling word has to do with people. The suffixes -tion and -sion are never used with these "people words."
Okay, let's see if you can identify the next spelling pattern for the spelling rule for the suffix -sion.
extend extension comprehend comprehension suspend suspension apprehend apprehension suppress suppression aggress aggression
Notice that all of the root words end in -s or -d. When the root word ends in -s or -d, the suffix -sion is used to make the noun form of verbs ending in -s or -d.
Additionally, one more rule applies to the -sion suffix. Can you spot it?
division conclusion adhesion exclusion vision
Do you hear a heavy "zhun" sound instead of the soft "shun" sound in these words? When a word contains a heavy "zhun," it is spelled with -sion only.
Verbs with the ending -mit use the suffix -mission to make the noun form of the word. For instance:
permit permission commit commission submit submission
Last, if the root word ends in -t or -te, then -tion is used to make the noun form of the verb. For instance:
protect protection project projection reject rejection attribute attribution contribute contribution educate education
The Letter Q
With the rapid growth and assimilation of world cultures in the United States over the past century, and the swift development of technology making the world "smaller" every day, American English becomes more and more infused with the influence of foreign words. With that comes the ever-growing list of exceptions to the spelling rules, some of which you have seen already.
In the English language, the letter q must be followed by a u in a word. Primarily, the use of the letter q in English is derived from the influence of the French language. Words such as queue, quarter, question, and picturesque are a ubiquitous part of everyday spoken language. You may run into other q words, such as Qatar, Iraq, Iraqi, Qantas, and Compaq in the news and in advertisements. All of these words are proper nouns, and simply because they are proper nouns, they become exceptions to this rule. Why? Because spelling rules apply only to common, everyday words, not special ones.
Prefixes and Suffixes
Adding prefixes, groups of letters that have a significant meaning, to the beginnings of words does not change the spelling of the original words (called root words). When a prefix is added, its meaning is combined with the original root word's meaning to form a new word. English prefixes and suffixes commonly come from Latin and Greek words, although Old English (Anglo-Saxon) was borrowed from as well. Take the Greek prefix astro-, for example. Astro- means "star" in Greek. Can you think of words beginning with astro- that have to do with stars and space? What about astronaut, astrology, astronomy, or asteroid?
Suffixes are added to the ends of words. Many suffixes actually change the original word's part of speech when they are added. For example, the verb bowl becomes the noun bowler when the suffix -er is added. Adding suffixes often requires that the spelling of the original word alter in some way, which is what makes spelling so challenging. Like prefixes, suffixes are derived from Greek, Latin, and Old English (Anglo-Saxon) words. Following are some of these common prefixes and suffixes.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Common Spelling Rules, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Grammar Practice Exercises.
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