Everyone who is an English speaker knows how tricky spelling can be, whether in their native language or learning English as a foreign language.
Since the English language has many words taken from other languages, it is by far one of the most irregular and complex languages for non-native speakers to spot any reliable pattern in its spelling. Learning to spell fluently in English can be a daunting task since many spelling rules usually have plenty of exceptions.
However, it's not all bad! Even the trickiest of spellings can be learned with suitable methods and plenty of practice!
This informative article will delve into the world of English spelling rules to help you improve your English skills. No one said that learning a language was a piece of cake. But we are sure that you will achieve it more easily with all these recommendations!
Canadian, American, or British English?
English is one of the richest languages, and when we compare Canadian, American, or British English, we can realize that its spelling may become somewhat different.
The spelling of Canadian English is described as a mixture of American English, British English, Quebec French, and original Canadian words. And you might wonder, but how did all this happen?! Well, history has the answer, my friend! Canadian history helps explain the different influences that resulted in the emergence of the standard Canadian English that we know today.
Let's start by talking with a bit of history! Did you know that English was first spoken in Canada in the 17th century? Following the transfer of Nova Scotia to Great Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht (signed in 1714), English-speaking settlements were established in that Canadian province, such as Halifax. In 1750, after the expulsion of the French-speaking Acadian population provoked by British deportation campaigns, Nova Scotia's English population expanded with the arrival of pioneers from New England.
The British victory in the Seven Years' War made an extensive English-speaking settlement in eastern Canada possible. And, due to the Treaty of Paris, France ceded the remaining Canadian territory to Great Britain in 1763. Decades later, the end of the American Revolution caused 45,000 United Empire loyalists to flee to Canada, all of whom had supported Great Britain during the war, resulting in the first English-speaking population, which later became Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
The next wave of English-speaking settlements was sparked by the Napoleonic Wars when Britain faced problems related to overpopulation and the economic and social consequences caused by the Industrial Revolution. Then, during the mid-19th century, large groups of western pioneers arrived from the United States, Britain, and Europe.
Now you know why Canadian English is so unique! We cannot help but contemplate that all the immigration that Canada has gone through over time has had a significant impact on the enrichment of Canadian English. Mind-blowing, eh?
If you feel curious about Canadian history, you will learn more here!
Depending on the origin, the spelling of English will vary significantly. Canadian spelling still has much more British English influence than US English. For example, in Canada, you will use more the words favourite, colour, and centre, rather than favorite, color, or center. But maybe you might be wondering, "which English is correct?!" And the answer is, "It depends on where you are!" For example, Canadian English, New Zealand English, and South African English will always be correct in those areas of the world. What a flexible and adaptable language is English, isn't it?!
This article will focus on the general rules of English spelling applied regardless of the country or dialect, along with some examples and exceptions. Let's go!
Get to know the English Spelling Rules!
English has approximately 31 spelling rules. We will go through some of them to excel in your English! Generally, these spelling rules describe how to use suffixes correctly and other patterns in spelling English words.
- Rule 1: I before E except after C:
I comes before E in most words, except when both letters immediately follow C. Example: achieve, believe, chief, field, grief, piece, relieve.
- Rule 2: E before I when sounding like A:
This is especially common when a silent GH follows EI. Example: freight, eight, neighbor, weight.
However, rules are meant to be broken! Some exceptions to the rule are: seize, weird, caffeine, foreign, protein, leisure, either, neither, height.
- Rule 3: Words ending in Y usually change Y to I before a suffix.
- beauty: beautify, beautiful
- contrary: contrarily, contrariness, contrariwise
- merry: merrily, merriment, merriness
- Rule 4: When we add vowel suffixes to words ending in Y, we usually change Y to the letter I.
- apply: appliance, applied, applies
- colony: colonial, colonies, colonize
- envy: enviable, envied, envious
- happy: happier, happiest
- luxury: luxuriant, luxuriate, luxurious
- marry: marriage, married, marries
- worry: worried, worrier, worries
- Rule 5: The final consonants of verbs are doubled before a suffix which begins with a vowel.
- Big: bigger, biggest
- Occur: occurred, occurring
- Admit: admitted, admitting
- Cut: cuttable
- Slim: slimmed, slimming
Exception: This does not apply when verbs are doubled with the letters "h," "w," "x," or "y":
- show: showed, showing
- toy: toyed, toying
- bus: bused, busing
- prefer: preference
- confer: conference
- Rule 6: Final consonants of verbs are NOT doubled before suffixes when the word ends in more than one consonant.
- frown: frowned, frowning
- help: helped, helping
- match: matched, matching
- Rule 7: The verb's final consonants are also NOT doubled when the preceding vowel sound is spelled with two vowels.
- shout: shouted, shouting
- dread: dreaded, dreading
- reveal: revealed, revealing
- Rule 8: We add a K to verbs ending in C, before suffixes like ed, ing, and er:
- mimic: mimicked, mimicking
- panic: panicked, panicking
- picnic: picnicked, picnicking
- traffic: trafficked, trafficking
- Rule 9: In verbs ending in a silent E, we keep the E before a suffix which begins with a CONSONANT:
- bare: barely, bareness, bares
- care: careful, careless, cares
- complete: completely, completeness, completes
- home: homeless, homely, homeward
- like: likely, likeness, likewise
- peace: peaceful, peaceless
Some lovely exceptions:
- true: truly
- whole: wholly
- argue: argument
- nine: ninth
- wise: wisdom
- Rule 10: In verbs ending in a silent E, we drop the E before a suffix which begins with a VOWEL:
- bake: baking
- guide: guidance
- craze: crazy
- note: notable
- creative: creativity
Exceptions: canoeing, hoeing, shoeing, singeing, dyeing.
- Rule 11: We don't change verbs ending in a vowel!
When a verb ends in a vowel that is not Y nor E, we don't change the root when adding a vowel suffix.
- cameo: cameoed, cameoing
- disco: discoed, discoing
- echo: echoed, echoing
- halo: haloed, haloing
- ski: skied, skiing
- Rule 12: Verbs ending in IE, we change it to Y before adding ING.
- die: died, dies, dying
- lie: lied, lies, lying
- tie: tied, tied, tying
- Rule 13: We add to the suffix IC a LY an ICALLY.
Let's see some examples:
- academic: academically
- basic: basically
- drastic: drastically
- enthusiastic: enthusiastically
- genetic: genetically
- historic: historically
- ironic: ironically
- realistic: realistically
Let's see some exceptions again:
- chic: chicly
- public: publicly
- Rule 14: Nouns that end in CE or GE, keep the E before the suffixes ABLE and OUS.
It's not that complicated. Here are some examples:
- peace: peaceable
- notice: noticeable
- courage: courageous
- Rule 15: In nouns that end in O, S, Z, X, SH, or CH, we add ES to make them plural.
- tomato: tomatoes
- glass: glasses
- buzz: buzzes
- box: boxes
- bush: bushes
- switch: switches.
- Rule 16: In nouns that end in Y, we change the Y to I and add we ES to make them plural.
- baby: babies
- poppy: poppies
- spy: spies
- try: tries
And here we have some exceptions!
- Key: keys
- monkey: monkeys
- valley: valleys
- Rule 17: In nouns ending in F or FE, we change the F to V and add ES for plural.
- thief: thieves
- wolf: wolves
- knife: knives
- elf: elves
- Rule 18: Nouns ending in IS change to ES for plural.
- crisis: crises
- analysis: analyses
- thesis: theses
- synopsis: synopses
We do not intend to make you panic with all these rules! You will realize that the correct spelling will arrive almost automatically with time. But in the meantime, getting to know these rules will work wonders to improve your English to the fullest!
Whether you are native in English or your second or third language, spelling is anything but a walk in the park. However, improving your general language skills as you learn slang and work on your comprehension of idiomatic expressions and phrases to become fluent is all down to practice!
With the right attitude and a good amount of motivation, you'll soon be on your way to spelling success and 0 mistakes!
How to improve your spelling in English?
English spelling is one of the essential elements you have to handle when studying English. However, you are expected to find yourself confused with all the spelling rules that you must remember, as they can be complicated. This article will also show you some tips that can help you excel in the English spelling rules and help you become an expert. You will not be able to ignore these recommendations!
As you can see, perhaps learning spelling by heart is not the most effective strategy, but maybe the following tricks will ease the way.
- Let's start with a bit of contradiction.
Although we have just told you that perhaps learning the spelling rules by heart is not the most advisable, always having notions of them can help you identify patterns.
- Knowing the exceptions to the spelling rules is also the key, or at least being familiar with them.
Once you grasp the spelling rule, make sure you also know its exceptions. Although there is no magic formula to learn these exceptions, it is a matter of practice, practice, and more practice that will help us remember that the rules exist to be broken many times in life!
- You can not only learn through traditional techniques.
Are you ready to improve your spelling with crosswords and puzzles? Why not carry a dictionary with you? In order to improve your English, these activities could be an excellent option to keep your brain in good shape and gain more knowledge about general culture. Also, if you aim to learn to speak English as a second language, you'll need to manage the tricky details, including spelling.
- Have you thought about watching your favorite series with subtitles?
You can improve your spelling in English while you watch the programs or series that you like the most! Maybe the conversations go a bit fast to take notes, but you can have a notebook on hand to write down what you find most interesting. Also, did you know that your brain can store much more vocabulary than you can register? The more you expose yourself to the language, the more English words will spontaneously come to mind.
Watching English TV and films with subtitles can help you understand how pronunciation and spelling link together in English. This way, you will be able to rely on your instinct when it comes to spelling and improve your English speaking, and of course your listening skills. Are you ready for some Netflix and Chill?
- Reading is always a good idea!
Having the habit of reading already has many benefits, such as increasing concentration and developing imagination and creativity. It allows you to expand your vocabulary, build your linguistic writing skills, synthesize concepts, and improve spelling.
Disconnect for a moment from the routine to indulge yourself in your favorite reading and improve in English simultaneously. The simple fact of being exposed to words in English regularly will help your brain assimilate the spelling better. In addition to that, you can always choose the reading that seems most pleasant to you.
- Have you heard of mnemonics?
The definition of mnemonic involves the memory and the procedures of remembering some image or event. Memory aids, or mnemonics, could help you remember more complicated spelling rules.
Let's see some examples:
- To remember how to write correctly "hear" (as opposed to "here"), you will remember it more quickly since you "hear with your ear." In this example, the word "hEAR" already includes EAR.
Another example? Do you want to know how to write "desert" or "dessert" correctly?
- A "deSert" is Sandy (a single S). Both "desert" and Sandy" have just one S.
- And "deSSert" has two S in it, like Sweet Stuff.
Is this magic? No! They are simply mnemonics or memory tricks!
Now you know why your teachers made up songs to help you learn the alphabet!
- Practice plurals!
If you already have an excellent notion of the English language, surely you know that the plural version of a word does not always depend on adding an "S" at the end. Did you know that there are even English spelling rules for plural nouns? Let's study! If you learn the different versions of the plural of words concerning their singular ending, you will master it more easily.
- Remember that words are not always spelled the way they sound.
Not taking this into account can easily lead to spelling mistakes, so pay attention! For this reason, it is recommended to divide words into syllables so that it is easier to pronounce them correctly. Let's see some examples: The word "Wednesday" is pronounced, "Wenzday." Why not carry a dictionary with you to perfect your daily language?
- Set aside a special spelling notebook for practice.
Make your quick spelling guide! Here you can write all those words that you find exciting or challenging to remember. Over time you will realize how you have progressed, and you can always come back to give it a review when you need it. Besides, constantly writing in English will also help you have a better basis of the language.
As you can notice, learning a language takes some time, practice, and effort. Spelling in English can seem like a maze at times, but stay calm and don't despair! The more you practice and lose your fear of the language, the easier it will become for you to become an expert!
- Improve your English with an expert:
Have you thought about having 100% personalized private English classes? Perhaps private tutoring can help you improve your English in the best way! Imagine going hand in hand with an expert who identifies and promotes your strengths, especially the areas where you have to work the most. How wonderful to be able to advance at your own pace, get straight to the point and get the most out of English tutoring, right? A private tutor could be your key to success!
Excel your English in the best way with private tutoring!
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