Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling
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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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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).
Examples: hat = short A sound; hate = long A sound with silent E
far = short A sound; fare = long A sound with silent E
bit = short I sound; bite = long I sound with silent E
not = short O sound; note = long O sound with silent E
Other words that follow this pattern of being pronounced with a long vowel sound with a silent E at the end:
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?
CONCLUSION: This rule is useful for telling you how words with Vowel + Consonant + Silent E should be pronounced, but it does not help you to spell them.
SOFT AND HARD C AND G
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: cement, cent, century, city, ceiling, circle, gem, germ, gentle, giant, giraffe
C and G are pronounced with a Hard sound (like K and G) if they are followed by A, O or U: comment, country, cant, cute, coiling, curtain, candor, go, goblin, garage, gallon, gun, guppy
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: girl, get, gear, gift. 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.
|Soft C words||Hard C words||Soft G words||Hard G words|
|cement||cite||camel||correct||gem||giblet||gab, gas, gallon, gather|
|center||citizen||castle||cube||gesture||gym||gift, girl, give, gill|
|certain||circle||camp||cure||gerbil||gymnasium||go, got, ghost, good|
|cession||cycle||come||cucumber||gelatin||gyrate||gun, guppy, gut|
|cent||cyber||core||cut||giant||germ||gold, gum, gobble|
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, and 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.
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 be 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, chances 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.
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)
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 =||6. cereal =||11. hope =||16. kite =||21. here =|
|2. fact =||7. check =||12. hock =||17. kit =||22. herd =|
|3. rice =||8. rack =||13. giggle =||18. cite =||23. gold =|
|4. brick =||9. rake =||14. gaggle =||19. plane =||24. cold =|
|5. brake =||10. race =||15. jiggle =||20. plant =||25. cell =|
For several more examples of English words that defy logic, go to the Next Page.
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