Why is English spelling exceptionally irregular?
It is well known that English words derive mainly from old German and Norman French, and that its alphabet of 26 letters makes it impossible to represent its 43 ½ speech sounds with just one symbol. But that is not why many English spellings, such as ‘daughter’, ‘brought’ and ‘people’, are now irregular, while their German and French relatives have much better spellings (Tochter, brachte, peuple).
The pronunciations of all three languages have changed since 1066. But only in English have numerous spellings become highly unreliable guides to pronunciation (sound, southern, soup), and spellings for identical sounds have ended up exceptionally varied (blue, shoe, flew, through, to, you, two, too, gnu).
The consistency of English spelling was first seriously corrupted during the reinstatement of English as the official language of England in 15th century. It suffered even more at the hands of foreign printers during the bible wars of the 16th century. Sadly, there has never been a serious, co-ordinated attempt to remedy the various accidental and deliberate corruptions of the alphabetic principle (of representing speech sounds in a regular manner) in English.
The English spelling system
As explained by Masha Bell March 2011
English has 43.5 sounds: 43 as shown in bold letters in the words below
At, rain, air, car, sauce, bed, chip, dog,
egg, eel, herb, fish, garden, house,
ink, pie, jug, kite, lips, man, nose, ring,
pot, toe, coin, food, wood, order, out,
pin, rug, sun, shop, tap, this, thing,
up, cue, van, window, yak, zip, television
and an unstressed, often barely audible, variously spelt half-vowel
which occurs mainly in endings and prefixes (fatten, abandon, grammar; decide, divide).
If English had a completely regular spelling system, as Finnish and Korean do, it would have no more than 44 spellings, and learning to read and write English would be as easy as those two languages. Most alphabetic writing systems, however, do not have a completely one to one relationship between their sounds and spellings, with a few more spellings than sounds.
The European average is around 50. Learning to read and write English is exceptionally difficult because it has 185 spellings for 44 sounds.
The basic English spelling system has 91 patterns, as shown in bold letters below:
80 main spellings, 8 for unstressed endings, 2 prefixes and the consonants doubling rule:
Cat; plate, play; air; car; sauce, saw; bed;
c/at/ot/ut, crab/ clap, kite/kept, comic, pick, seek, risk; pocket;
dog; end; eel, funny; herb; fish; garden; house;
ink; bite, by; jug, bridge, oblige;
lips; man; nose, ring;
pot, want, quarrel; bone, toe; old; coin, toy;
food; good; order, wart, quarter, more; out, now;
pin; quick; rug;
sun, face, emergency;
shop, station, cautious, facial, musician;
tap, delicate; this; thing;
cup; cube, cue;
van, have, river; window;
fix; yes; zip, wise; vision, treasure.
8 unstressed endings (doable fatal, single, ordinary,
flatten, presence, present, other),
2 prefixes (decide, invite)
and the consonant doubling rule for keeping stressed vowels short
(bitter – biter).
It can be seen that one reason why English has more spellings than sounds is because many sounds are spelt differently in different positions of words (e.g. plate/ play; ship /station). The main reason for the great number of spellings, however, is that English also has a further 94 unpredictable alternative spellings (e.g. plate – wait, straight, eight, great).
Only 11 of the 91 main English spellings have no exceptions:
bed, jug/ jog/ jab, gorge, ring, single, pin, musician, this, thing, van, television.
80 English spelling patterns are undermined by one or more alternatives
Cat - plait meringue
plate - wait weight straight great vein reign table
dahlia champagne fete
play - they weigh ballet cafe matinee
air - care bear aerial their there questionnaire
car – are + (Southern Engl. bath)
sauce - caught bought always tall crawl
saw - (UK also: or, four, more)
C/at/ot/ut - character,
crab/ clap - chrome
lilac - stomach, anorak
neck - cheque
Chat - picture
clutch – much
Dad – blonde
End - head any said Wednesday friend leisure leopard bury
her - turn bird learn word journey
Eel - eat even ceiling field police people me key ski debris quay
jolly - trolley movie corgi
Fish - photo stuff rough
Garden - ghastly guard
House – who
Ink - mystery pretty sieve women busy build
bite - might style mild kind eider height climb island indict sign
my - high pie rye buy I eye
Jelly, jig – gentle, ginger
fidget - digit
Kite/ kept - chemistry
seek - unique
risk - disc mosque
Lips - llama
Mum - dumb autumn
Nose - knot gone gnome mnemonic
On - cough sausage; want – wont; quarrel - quod
mole - bowl roll soul old mould boast most goes mauve
toe - go dough sew cocoa pharaoh oh depot
Oil – oyster toy - buoy
food - rude shrewd move group fruit truth tomb manoeuvre
blue do shoe through
good - would put woman courier
Order – board court
wart, quart – worn quorn
more - soar door four war swore abhor
Out – town; now - plough
Quick - acquire choir
Rug - rhubarb write
Sun - centre scene
face - case
fancy - fantasy
Shop - chute sure moustache liquorice
ignition - mission pension suspicion fashion
ambitious - delicious luscious
facial - spatial
Tap, pet - pterodactyl two debt
delicate - democrat
Up - front some couple blood
cute - you newt neutral suit beauty Tuesday nuclear
cue - few view menu
have - spiv
river - chivvy
Window - which
fix - accept except exhibit
Yak - use
Zip – xylophone, rose - froze
measure - azure
Endings and prefixes:
loveable - credible
vertical - novel anvil petrol
ordinary - machinery inventory century carpentry
fasten - abandon truncheon orphan goblin certain
absence - balance
absent - pleasant
father - author armour nectar centre injure quota
decide - divide
indulge - endure
merry – very - serrated
(regular – missing - surplus)
372 - 384 – 158)
The listing above gives just one example of the different ways in which each spelling pattern is undermined; and a few patterns have no other exceptions (e.g. ‘cat - plait meringue’), but some have very many. The ee-sound of ‘beef’, for example, is not spelt ee in at least 320 words (e.g. leaf, grief, even). Between them, all the different exceptions create a rote-learning list of at least 3700 common words. They are the reason why speakers of English take an average of 10 years to become proficient spellers. Some manage it in less time, but many also get totally defeated by this learning burden.
English spelling makes learning to read harder too
This is partly because children have to learn to pronounce 185 spellings, instead of just around 50. The greatest English reading difficulties, however, are caused by the 69 spellings which have more than one pronunciation, shown in the next table. They make at least 2000 English words not completely decodable.
69 English spellings have more than one pronunciation
a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camera
ai: wait – plait, said
al: always – algebra
all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says
cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer
e: end – english
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
-ew: few - sew
-ey: they - monkey
ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: ink – kind
-ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic
ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tombola - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low
qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
-y-: type - typical
--y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure.
All common English words with phonically unreliable letters
can be seen below, listed in alphabetical order of the spellings with variable sounds.
At the very end is a list of the 103 English words which have different pronunciations in different contexts, followed by 190 high frequency words which most impede the reading progress of beginners.
Some spellings, a for example, have so many exceptional pronunciations that all the words with them really have to be learnt as sight words (rather than by decoding). Such words are therefore listed together with the common words in which they have a regular pronunciation.
* Words marked with an asterisk have variable pronunciation.
A is particularly tricky for learners of standard UK English because in this accent it is often
pronounced ah/ar; other pronunciation problems of the letter a, when it is pronounced like ai in aim, au in haul, o in not, e in bed, affect all readers.
Au A few words do not have the main sound of au, as in ‘daub, gaudy, autum’.
Ch is not always as in chat. It can spell k, sh and a few other sounds.
Ea spells mostly ee. The other sound for it is mainly a short e, with a few exceptions,
the ai of air or train, silent in ‘beauty’, the a in art, eeya in ‘linear’ and eea in ‘theatre’
Ge, gi and gy mostly have the sounds je and ji, as in gentle, ginger and gym.
In the words below the g is hard, as in gap and got.
Ie spells the ee sound, but several other sounds too:
ie of tie, e of end, -ye of dryer, ee-ye, i of sit and je.
The phonic overlap with ei (shown next) adds to the reading problems caused by this
Ei can also spell the ee sound and several others: ai of rain, e of bed, ie of tie, i of bit.
Eo The few word with eo have highly variable sounds.
I followed by two consonants is normally short (mint), but in words listed below it has a long sound as in line.
Missing or misleading doubled consonants
Vowels followed by one consonant and another vowel are supposed to be long,
e.g. game, legal, time, bone, tune,
Short vowels, in words of more than one syllable, should be followed by doubled consonants,
e.g. grammar, beggar, imminent, bonny, button,
or ck and dge, as in chicken and badger;
but manny words with a short vowel do not have a doubled consonant,
have irregular spellings for their consonants (e.g. acid - cf. massive) and
sometimes have irregular spellings for their short vowels too (e.g. any).
These irregularities help to obscure vowel length and make learning to read English harder.
Some words have doubled consonants which do not follow a short, stressed vowel
They make words longer (and thereby automatically more difficult for beginners) and they undermine the reliability of doubled consonants that serve a phonic function, as in
accurate, daffodil, rebellious, comment, annual, opposite, tomorrow, professor, forgotten.
They also mislead inexperienced readers to place stress on the wrong syllable, instead of the vowel which carries it (underlined):
O is often not as in spot.
It can sound like the u in cup, oa in toast, oo as in book or oo in boot and e as in herb
O-e is often not as in bone, solo or so, but like u of cup, o of hot, short oo of wood,
long oo of soon, er of her, i of bit)
OO is short, not long as in spoon, in:
Ou is often not as in out - but with long oo of boot, aw of saw, o-e of sole,
short oo of wood, u of cup, o of for, e of her.
Ow can sound like o in so or ou in thou
-qu In the following words qu does not spell its main sound (quick question),
but the k sound. A few pose other pronunciation difficulties as well.
Sce/ sci Sc has mainly an s sound (scene, scenery, scent, science, convalesce, crescent,
descend, disciple, discipline, fascinating, muscle)
but sh in conscience, conscientious and fascism and sk in mollusc.
–se When -se follows a vowel, it is pronounced mainly z (erase, cheese, rise, rose, fuse),
but in the following words it has a s-sound:
Silent letters make learning to read English more difficult too.
U In the following words u does not have the short u sound of cup, but
short oo sound of book, i of big and long oo of spoon
Ui has several unpredictable pronunciations: short i, i-e, yoo, yoo-i/oo-i, oo, wi, wee.
Words ending in –ture
are usually stressed on the first syllable (fracture, furniture, nature), apart from:
Words ending in –ure have variable stress and pronunciation.
Words with v nearly all pose problems in learning to read English, because this letter is usually not doubled after a short vowel (e.g. never) and a final –v is usually followed by –e, making it difficult to tell if a vowel before a v is long or short (gave – have) or which vowel is stressed (severe – several). Words with o before v are especially tricky.
A few more letters have reading problems in a small number of words.
103 English words which have
different pronunciations in different contexts.
Most just change stress; but those with –ate endings change their vowel length too.
Young children’s reading progress is most impeded by 190 very common words in which the which the spellings a, ea, o, o-e, ou, ow and oo are not pronounced in their usual way, as shown below. All common words with reading problems are listed after them.
English spellings A-Z and their exceptions
below are all English spelling patterns in alphabetical order, accompanied
by the words which disobey them. When words with irregular
spellings almost equal or outnumber those with regular ones, all common words
Words marked with x2 have two pronunciations,
e.g. tearx2 [teer/tair].
A - (bad, cat, rang) - except:
plaid, plait, meringue, have (cf. gave).
-able /-ible – (notable, audible) - (27 –able, 17 –ible):
Abominable, adorable, amiable, arable, available, capable, comparable, constable, desirable, doable, formidable, inevitable, inflammable, irritable, liable, miserable, notable, portable, probable, reliable, remarkable, respectable, suitable, syllable, valuable, variable, vulnerable.
Audible, compatible, edible, eligible, feasible, flexible, horrible, illegible, incredible, invisible, permissible, possible, responsible, sensible, terrible, visible, tangible.
a-e / ai - (late, lain)
The main spelling for this sound inside words is a-e (made),
but before l and n it is more often ai (rail, rain),
or both (male/mail):
Ail/ale, bale/bail, male/mail, pale/pail,
sale/sail, tale/tail, whale/wail,
dale, female, gale, inhale, scale, stale,
assail, cocktail, detail, fail, hail, jail, nail, prevail, rail, retail, snail, trail.
Main/mane, pain/pane, plain/plane,
abstain, again, ascertain, attain, brain, chain, chilblain, complain, contain, detain, drain, explain, gain, grain, obtain, refrain, remain, retain, slain, sprain, stain, strain, sustain, train;
acquaint, ain’t, faint, paint, quaint, saint;
Crane, lane, sane, membrane.
Skein; deign, feign; campaign; champagne.
There are also 55 other unpredictable spellings
for the a-e/ai sound:
Made/maid, aid, braid, laid, paid, raid, afraid.
Aim, claim, exclaim, maim, proclaim.
Place/plaice. Haste, paste, taste, waste/waist;
Daisy, praise, raise, raisin. Traitor, waiter.
Ate/eight, bate/bait, grate/great, straight/straits, wait/weight. Fête, freight.
Faith. Halfpenny, neighbour. Able, cable, cradle, fable, gable, ladle, sabre, stable, table – (cf. label).
Air / are / ear – (hair, care, swear...)
Air/heir, fair/fare, flair/flare, hair/hare,
chair, hair, lair, stairs, dairy, prairie, affair, despair, éclair, repair, questionnaire.
Bare/bear, blare, care, dare, glare, mare, rare, scare, share, snare, spare, square, area,
aware, compare, declare, parent, prepare;
canary, hilarious, malaria, Mary, various, vegetarian, wary.
Swear, tear x2[tair / teer],
Aerial, aeroplane, aerobatics.
-al - (actual, admiral, animal ...) - in at least 200 words,
but -el / -il / -ol in 31 others:
Caramel, cockerel, colonel, cruel, diesel, drivel, duel, easel, fuel, gravel, hazel, hostel, jewel, label, novel, spaniel, towel, vowel, weasel.
Civil, devil, evil, pupil.
Capitol, carol, cholesterol, idol, parasol, petrol, pistol, symbol.
-ar - (far) - has just one exception: are.
For speakers of standard British English,
the following have an ar/ah sound too:
Ask, bask, blast, cask, cast, caste, clasp, contrast*, fast, flabbergast, flask, gasp, ghastly, grasp, last, mask, mast, past, rascal, task, vast, brass, class, glass, grass, pass, mass*.
Advance, avalanche, banana, branch, chance, dance, chant, enhance, glance, lance, plant, prance, slant, soprano, stance, trance.
After, craft, daft, draft, giraffe, graft, raft, shaft, staff.
Almond, calf, calm, half, halve, palm, gala.
Drama, example, panorama, salami.
Bath, path, father, lather, rather.
Bra, la, ma, pa, spa, ah, hurrah, shah, baa,
armada, fuselage, promenade, strata, vase.
Graph, draught, laugh. Aunt. Clerk.
-ard - (coward, forward) - only one exception: shepherd.
-ary / -ery / -ory / -ry - unpredictable:
(37 –ary / 58 others):
Adversary, anniversary, arbitrary, aviary, boundary, burglary, commentary, contemporary, contrary, diary, dictionary, elementary, estuary, February, January, library, literary, military, monetary, necessary, ordinary, planetary, preliminary, primary, pulmonary, reactionary, revolutionary, salary, secondary, secretary, solitary, stationary, summary, temporary, veterinary, vocabulary, voluntary.
Archery, artery, artillery, blustery, celery, cemetery, colliery, crockery, delivery, discovery, drudgery, every, gallery, jewellery, lottery, machinery, monastery, mystery, nursery, pottery, recovery, robbery, scenery, stationery, surgery.
Category, dormitory, factory, history, inventory, ivory, laboratory, memory, observatory, satisfactory, territory, theory.
Carpentry, chemistry, country, entry, gantry, industry, infantry, paltry, pantry, pastry, poetry, poultry, symmetry, tapestry.
Century, injury, luxury, Mercury, mercury, treasury.
Au / aw /...(autumn, awful, all, alter) - unpredictable:
Auburn, auction, audible, August, authentic, author, authorise, automatic, autonomy, autumn, daub, gaudy, sauce, saucer, haul, maul, Paul, assault, cauldron, fault, tarpaulin, somersault, vault,
haunt, jaunt, launch, launder, staunch, taunt,
applause, cause, pause, Santa-Claus, exhaust,
astronaut, cosmonaut, nautical, taut, caution.
awful, awkward, awning, bawdy, dawdle, hawk, squawk.
Bawl, brawl, crawl, drawl, scrawl, shawl, sprawl, trawl.
All, almost, already, also, altogether, always,
ball, call, recall, fall, gall, hall, pall, small, squall, stall,
install, tall, wall, instalment,
appal, bald, scald, chalk stalk, talk,
altar, alter, (alternate, alternative), falter, halt, salt;
Brawn, dawn, drawn, fawn, lawn, pawn, prawn, sawn, spawn, yawn.
Caught, daughter, haughty, naughty, slaughter, taught.
Bought, brought, fought, nought, ought, sought, thought.
Walnut, walrus, waltz; water.
War/wore, warble, ward (award, reward), wardrobe, warm, warn/worn, warp, wart, dwarf.
–ay /-ey /-eigh - (say, they, weigh) - (30 –ay, 19 others):
Bay, bray, clay,
day (Monday – Sunday, midday, today, yesterday),
fray, gay, hay, lay, may, okay, pay, play, pray, ray, say, slay, spray, stay, stray, sway, tray;
array, astray, away, betray, decay, delay, dismay, display.
They, grey, hey, convey, obey, survey.
Neigh, sleigh, way/whey/weigh.
Ballet, beret, bouquet, buffet, duvet, chalet, crochet.
B - (bib, bob) – no exceptions, but sometimes silent
(bomb, crumb, dumb, lamb, limb, numb, thumb, succumb,
debt, doubt, subtle)
or put to other use
(climb [clime], tomb [toom], womb [woom]).
- bb- / -b- - (bobbin – robin) - unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
Ca-, co-, cu- - (cat, cot, cut) - with 19 exceptions:
Chameleon, chaos, character, chasm, mechanical;
kaleidoscope, kangaroo, karate, kayak, skate;
Anchor, cholesterol, chorus, psychological, school;
Bouquet[bookay], quoit, turquoise; queue [cue].
-cc- / -c- / -ck - (occupy – document - rocket) - unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
cl-, cr-... - (clip, crib, picnic, doctor) –
for k-sound before consonants – except:
Christmas, chrome, chrysalis, chrysanthemum; mackerel.
Technical, cockney, cocktail.
-c- - (cancel) - Inside words c is the main spelling
for an s-sound before e and i,
but with exceptions.
Absent, advertisement, arsenic, consent, consequence, conservative, insect, insert, morsel, persevere, prosecute.
Analysis, basic, basin, consider, consist, crisis, emphasis, insist, oasis, persistent, responsible, tonsil, university, utensil. Capsize, prehensile.
Abscess, ascend, ascertain, descend, descent, condescension, crescent, disciple, discipline, fascinating, proboscis.
Ancestors, cancel, cancer, concentrate, concept, conception, concern, concert, December, decent, grocer, innocent, license, licentious, magnificent, necessity, parcel, percent, perception, pincer, porcelain, princess, process, procession, reception, recent, recess, rhinoceros, saucer.
Conceal. Conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, receipt, receive.
Facetious, precede, procedure. Proceed, proceedings, proceeds. Plasticine.
Council/counsel, criticism, deciduous, decision, facilities, hyacinth, incident, medicine, narcissus, Pacific, participation, pencil, precision, principal, principle, specific, stencil.
Coincide, decide, decisive, decipher, docile, exercise, precise, recite, suicide; society,
-c - (lilac) - for k-sound at the end of longer words,
Anorak, kayak; attack, barrack, ransack; stomach.
-ce / -se - (face /case) - for final s-sound after long vowels,
38 –ce , 21 –se:
Ace, brace, embrace, face, grace, lace, pace, place/plaice, race, space, trace. Peace/piece, fleece, niece, police.
Dice, ice, mice, nice, price, rice, slice, twice, vice, advice, device, sacrifice. Choice, rejoice, voice.
Introduce, juice, reduce, truce, sluice. Sauce.
Base, case, chase.
Cease, crease, grease, increase, release, geese, these.
Concise, precise. Dose. Goose, loose, noose, mouse.
Close x2, house x2, excuse x2, use x2.
[too cloce to cloze; too good a houce to houze...,
no uce, to uze]
-ce - (practice, promise, fortress) - In unstressed endings,
the spelling of the final s-sound and the vowel before it
are both unpredictable:
A practice/to practise(in UK), apprentice, armistice, coppice, crevice, justice, notice, novice, office, precipice, service.
Menace, necklace, palace, surface, terrace. Lettuce.
Analysis, axis, basis, bronchitis, chrysalis, crisis, emphasis, hypothesis, iris, oasis, pelvis, proboscis, synthesis, tennis, tonsillitis, trellis.
Atlas, canvas, Christmas, pampas, pyjamas.
Carcass, compass, embarrass, trespass.
Abscess, access, congress, cypress, fortress, mattress, process, progress, recess, harness, witness.
-ce - (fence, force, else)
- final s-sound after consonants.
After -n- mainly -ce (mince), except:
Dense, expanse, expense, immense, intense, license,
nonsense, response, rinse, sense, suspense, tense.
After l or p, always -se:
Else, pulse, impulse.
Collapse, copse, corpse, eclipse, elapse, glimpse, lapse.
After r - 13 –se, 8-ce:
Coarse, course, curse, gorse, hoarse, horse, nurse, purse, rehearse, reverse, universe, verse, worse.
Commerce, divorce, enforce, fierce, force, pierce, reinforce, source.
Ch - (chip) – regular,
with –tch (catch) after short vowels:
Catch, hatch, latch, match, patch, scratch, snatch, thatch, dispatch; sketch, stretch, wretch; ditch, hitch, itch, pitch, stitch, switch, twitch, witch; notch, watch; hutch, Dutch.
Except: which, much, such, touch, attach, detach.
-cian - (musician) – regular ending
for adjectives formed
from nouns ending with –ic (music - musician)
-ck - (back, pocket) - for a k-sound after short vowels,
Mac, sac, rec (short for ‘recreation ground’). Yak.
Crocodile, decade, documents, executive, recognise, record, second, secular, vacuum.
Accurate, occupy, piccolo, soccer, succulent, tobacco.
Cheque, chequered, lacquer, liquor.
Echo, mechanism. - (See also Doubled consonants).
-cy - (fancy) - main spelling for a see-sound in word endings:
Accuracy, delicacy, aristocracy, conspiracy, democracy, diplomacy, policy, juicy.
Agency, emergency, fancy, frequency, vacancy, tendency, urgency. Mercy.
Controversy, courtesy, fantasy, gypsy, topsy-turvy. Embassy.
D - (dad) – completely regular
-dd- / -d- - (shoddy – body) - unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
De- / di- - (devise, divide) - as unstressed prefix,
56 de-, 28 di-:
Decay, deceive, December, decide, (decision, decisive), deciduous, decipher, declare, decline, deduct, defeat, defect, defend, defiant, define, definite, degree, delay, delicious, delight, deliver, demand, democratic, demolish, deny, depart, department, depend, deport, deposit, depress, derive, descend, describe, deserve, design, despair, despatch, despise, despite, destination, destiny, destroy, detach, detain, detect, detention, detergent, determine, detest, devalue, develop, devise, devote, devour.
Dictate, diffusion, dilapidated, dilemma, diploma, diplomatic, disappear, disaster, discharge, disciple, discover, discuss, disease, disguise, disgust, dismantle, dismay, displace, display, dispose, dispute, distinct, distribute, disturb, divide, (division), divine, divorce.
-dge - (bridge) for the j-sound in short words,
after a short vowel, to differentiate from long vowels,
(e.g. badge – cage) - regular:
Badge, bridge, cadge, dodge, dredge, edge, fridge, grudge, hedge, judge, ledge, lodge, nudge, ridge, sledge, smudge, trudge.
In longer words dg / g is less predictable
(e.g. fidget digit)
Badger, budgie, budget, fledgeling, fidget, midget, dodgems, dodgy, podgy, drudgery.
Digit, legend, legislate, logic, pigeon, regiment, register, religion, rigid, vegetable;
Exaggerate; suggest (can be [sugjest] in US).
Schoolchildren learn to double the final consonant of one-syllable words before the suffixes -ing, -ed, -en, -er, -y or -ish
(e.g. bat - batting, batted, batty, batter) to show that the preceding stressed vowel is short, rather than long, as in
‘bate - bated, bating’.
With one-syllable words this rule is used consistently, but some longer verbs have doubled consonants before -ed and -ing, even when the preceding vowel is not stressed:
benefitted, travelled (cf. preferred, permitted).
In longer root words, English consonant doubling
after short, stressed vowels is very inconsistent:
373 words (e.g. mellow) obey the doubling rule
384 words (e.g. melon) disobey it and
158 words (e.g. satellite) have needlessly doubled
consonants after unstressed vowels.
The lists below show, consonant by consonant, and vowel by vowel, the words with regularly doubled consonants after short vowels, with undoubled consonants (or other letters, e.g. 'dizzy prison') and with needlessly doubled letters.
Abbey, cabbage, jabber, rabbit, Sabbath, shabby; ribbon; hobby, lobby; chubby, rubber, rubbish, stubborn, stubby.
Cabinet, cabaret, cabin, elaborate, fabulous, habit; nebula, treble; liberal, liberty, tribute; probable, robin.
Bracken (ck is the main spelling for a k-sound after a short vowel), bracket, jacket, packet, package, racket; beckon, reckon, bicker, chicken, cricket, flicker, rickety, sticky, ticket, wicked, wicker, wicket, cockerel, crockery, hockey, jockey, locket, pocket, rocket, rocky, socket, stocking, bucket, sucker, cuckoo.
Vacuum, decade, executive, recognise, record (noun), second, secular; crocodile, documents.
Accurate, tobacco; piccolo; occupy, succulent.
chequered, liquor, liquorice; lacquer.
Accommodate, accommodation, accompany, accomplish, accord, accordion, account, accumulate, accuse, accustom, occasion, occupation, occurrence, succumb.
Adder, caddie, caddy, daddy, ladder, eddy, teddy, wedding, giddy, hidden, ridden, shoddy, sodden, rudder, shudder, sudden, pudding.
Academy, adequate, radical, radish, credit, dedicated, edible, edit, educate, federal, medical, pedal, pedigree, meadow, ready, already, steady, hideous, video, body, modern, modest, produce (noun), study.
Daffodil, scaffold, traffic, effigy, effort, different, difficult, jiffy, coffee, coffin, offer, office, buffalo, buffer, buffet, chuffed, ruffian, suffer, suffocate.
Café, refuge, refuse (noun), heifer, magnificent, significant, profit.
Affair, affect, affection, afford, paraffin, effect, efficient, differential, diffusion, offend, official, sufficient, chauffeur.
Baggage, jagged, maggot, scraggy, stagger, swagger, beggar, snigger, trigger, soggy, luggage, nugget, rugged.
Agony, dragon, flagon, hexagonal, negative, brigand, frigate.
Alley, alligator, ally, ballast, ballet, ballot, challenge, gallant, gallery, gallon, gallop, gallows, mallet, rally, shallow, stallion, valley, bellow, belly, cellar, cello, cellophane, fellow, intelligent, jelly, pellet, rebellion, sellotape, trellis, umbrella, yellow, armadillo, artillery, billiard, billion, billow, billy, brilliant, frilly, gorilla, guerrillas, guillotine, illustrate, milligrams, million, pillar, pillow, silly, syllable, vanilla, villa, village, villain, collar, colleague, collie, colliery, dollar, follow, hollow, holly, jolly, lollipop, lolly, mollusc, pollen, pollinate, trolley, volley, college, swallow, wallaby, wallet, wallop, wallow, lullaby, sullen, bullet, bulletin, bullion, bullock, bully, pulley, pullover.
Analysis, balance, battalion, calendar, chalet, galaxy, italic, morality, palace, palate, palette, reality, salad, salary, salon, talent, talon, valentine, valiant, valid, value, vitality, celery, delegate, delicacy, deluge, develop, element, eligible, helicopter, jealous, melody, melon, pelican, relevant, relic, skeleton, telescope, zealous, ability, bilious, military, ventriloquist, cylinder, abolish, colony, column, demolish, holiday, olive, policy, politics, polythene, solemn, solid, tolerate, volume, voluntary, knowledge, quality, colour.
With long, instead of short vowels: controlled, roller, swollen.
Parallel, excellent, hello, jewellery, marvellous, satellite, constellation, caterpillar, illegible, illiterate, illusion, illustration, illuminate, pastille, tonsillitis, collage, collapse, collect, collide.
Ammonite, clammy, hammer, inflammable, mammal, mammoth, stammer, dilemma, glimmer, simmer, symmetry, comment, commentary, commerce, common, communism, communist, dummy, mummy, rummage, summary, summer, summit, summon, tummy.
Amateur, camel, camera, damage, dynamic, enamel, famished, laminate, cemetery, chemical, democrat, emerald, epidemic, memory, remedy, lemon, feminine, premise, semi, criminal, eliminate, image, limit, timid, women, abominable, comet, comic, dominate, domino, economic, prominent, promise, vomit, stomach, plumber.
Ammunition, programme, immediate, immense, immortal, immune, command, commemorate, commence, commercial, commit, commodities, commotion, communication, communion, community, commuter, committee, recommend.
Annual, banner, cannot, granny, manner, nanny, pannier, savannah, spanner, uncanny, antenna, pennant, tennis, penny, dinner, inner, innocence, innocent, spinnaker, bonnet, sonnet, bunny.
Animal, anorak, banish, banister, canopy, granary, manage, manor, manual, organic, panel, panic, spaniel, vanish, benefit, enemy, energy, menace, penetrate, venison, lieutenant, any, many, aluminium, clinical, continue, finish, linear, minimal, minister, opinion, sinister, spinach, vinegar, cinema, cynical, synagogue, synonym, minute [minnit], astonish, conifer, economy, electronic, monastery, monarch, monument, supersonic, tonic, honey, money, onion, punish.
Anniversary, announce, annoy, connect, personnel, mayonnaise, questionnaire.
Appetite, happen, happy, nappy, pepper, flipper, kipper, skipper, slipper, copper, coppice, opposite, poppy, sloppy, puppet, puppy, supper, upper.
Capital, capitol, rapid, tapestry, capita, epic, jeopardy, leper, leopard, tepid, separate, weapon, copy, opera, operate, proper, property, topic, popular, tropics.
Appal, apparatus, apparent, appeal, appear, appendix, applaud, apply, appoint, appreciate, apprentice, approach, appropriate, approve, approximate, hippopotamus, opportunity, oppose, suppose, supply, support.
Arrow, barren, barrier, barrister, barrow, carrot, carry, garret, marrow, marry, narrative, narrow, parrot, sparrow, merry, sherry, terrace, terrible, territory, terror, irritable, mirror, squirrel, stirrup, borrow, corridor, horrible, lorry, porridge, sorrow, sorry, tomorrow, torrent, quarry, warrant, warren, burrow, current, furrowed, hurricane, hurry, scurry, turret, worry, furry.
Arab, arable, arid, asparagus, baron, caramel, caravan, caricature, carol, chariot, charity, clarity, comparison, parasol, parish, transparent, America, beret, ceremony, cherish, derelict, herald, heritage, heroine, heron, merit, peril, perish, sincerity, sterilise, therapist, very, bury, conspiracy, empirical, lyric, miracle, spirit, syrup, tyranny, authority, coral, florist, forest, historic, horoscope, majority, minority, moral, orange, priority, laurel, quarantine, thorough, courage, nourish.
Arrange, array, arrest, arrive, barricade, erratic, interrupt, serrated, terrific, irregular, irrigation, torrential, correspond, correct, correlation, curriculum, surrender, surround, hurrah.
Asset, ambassador, casserole, classic, massacre, massive, passage, passenger, delicatessen, essay, essence, lesson, message, necessity, professor, missile, narcissus, rissole, blossom, colossal, fossil, gossip, possible.
Acid, capacity, pacifist, glacier (US glaishier), decimal, precipice, necessary, recipe, specify, specimen, , electricity, explicit, municipal, participate, publicity, simplicity, solicitor, velocity. Chrysalis, sausage. Fascinate, adolescent, convalescent, crescent, discipline.
Assail, assassin, embassy, assault, assemble, assert, assessment, assign, assist, associate, assort, assume, cassette, dessert, essential, possess, possibility.
Attic, attitude, batter, battery, chatter, clatter, fatty, matter, patter, pattern, regatta, scatter, shatter, tatter, latter, better, confetti, jettison, jetty, letter, lettuce, spaghetti, bitten, bitter, glitter, kitten, litter, mitten, pretty, sitter, titter, twitter, written, bottom, cottage, cotton, forgotten, lottery, motto, otter, potter, butter, button, clutter, gutter, mutter, mutton, putty, shutter, splutter, stutter, utter.
Atom, baton, catalogue, catapult, category, compatible, lateral, latitude, platinum, platypus, satin, strategy, athletic, magnetic, metal, petal, tetanus, veteran, yeti, competitive, British, citizen, city, critical, pity, literally, obliterate, botany.
Attach, attain, attempt, attend, attention, attorney, attract, attributed, battalion, tattoo, mattress, omelette, palette, settee.
Blizzard, dizzy, buzzard.
Hazard, lizard, wizard, wizened, lozenge.
Desert, designate, desolate, hesitate, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, present, president, resident, miserable, prison, risen, visible, visit, closet, deposit, positive.
Doubled consonants in word endings
(pebble, muddle, ruffle..., cliff, well, fuss)
Several dozen words with a short vowel end with a doubled consonant, followed by -le (apple) or –ckle (tickle), but many others do not use this pattern; mm, nn and rr are always followed by -el instead (channel) and -ssle is spelt mainly -stle (bristle) The basic patterns also have several exceptions.
Bubble. - Double, treble, trouble.
Toddle. – Model.
Tickle. - Nickel.
Apple. - Chapel, triple, couple.
Scuttle. - Subtle.
Fizzle. – Chisel.
Trammel. - Camel.
Channel. - Panel.
Barrel. - Laurel.
Hassle. - tassel,
vessel - trestle, wrestle, bristle, gristle, thistle, whistle,
bustle, hustle, rustle. - Muscle/mussel.
-ff, -ll, -ss - (cliff, well, fuss) – are used at the end of
many short words, except:
Chef, clef, if, of. Cough, rough, slough, tough, trough;
graph, laugh; bus, gas, plus, us, yes.
E - (bed, bend) - has 64 exceptions, mainly ea:
Bread/bred, breadth, breast, breath, dead, deaf, dealt, death, dread, dreamt, head, health, lead x2[leed/led], leant, leapt, meant, readx2[reed/red], realm, spread, sweat, thread, threat, wealth. Breakfast, cleanliness, cleanse, endeavour, feather, heather, heaven, heavy, instead, leather, measure, stealthy, treacherous, treadmill, treasure, weather.
Friend. Leisure, lieutenant [lesure, leftennant in UK].
Against, said, says, every, Wednesday.
The following are also without a doubled consonant after their short e-sound (as in 'jelly, teddy, penny'):
Jealous, meadow, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, ready, (already), steady, weapon, zealous.
Any, many. Jeopardy, leopard. Berry/bury. Heifer.
Ee / ea / e-e ... – (deed, lead, concede, siege, conceive, police,
people, key, ski )
Spelling of the ee-sound is predictable only when it is
a stressed ending (agree, chimpanzee).
In other words the spellings for it are highly unpredictable,
and 48 words have two spellings.
Bee/be, beech/beach, been/bean, beet/beat, breech/breach, cheep/cheap, creek/creak, deer/dear, discreet/discrete, eerie/eyrie, eve/eaves, feet/feat, flee/flea, freeze/frieze, jeans/genes, Greece/grease, heel/heal, hear/here, key/quay, leech/leach, leek/leak, meet/meat, need/knead, pee/pea, peace/piece, peek/peak, peel/peal, peer/pier, reed/readx2[reed/red], reek/wreak, reel/real, sealing/ceiling, seamen/semen, see/sea, seem/seam, seen/scene, serial/cereal, sheer/shear, sheikh/chic, steel/steal, sweet/suite, tee/tea, teem/team, wee/we, week/weak, wheel/weal.
In UK English also: geezer/geyser, leaver/lever.
The other 360 words with an ee-sound are spelt as follows.
Beef, beer, beetle, between, bleed, bleep, breed, breeze, career, cheek, cheer, cheese, cheetah, creep, deed, deep, eel, exceed, feeble, feed, feel, fleece, fleet, geese, greed, green, greet, indeed, jeep, jeer, keel, keen, keep, kneel, meek, needle, peep, pioneer, preen, proceed, proceedings, proceeds, queen, queer, reef, screech, screen, seed, seek, seep, seesaw, sheep, sheet, sleek, sleep, sleet, sleeve, smithereens, sneer, sneeze, speech, speed, squeeze, steep, steeple, steer, street, succeed, sweep, sweet, teeth, teetotal, thirteen, tweed, tweezers, weed, weep, wheedle, wheeze, wildebeest.
Appeal, beacon, bead, beak, beam, beard, beast, beaver, beneath, bleach, bleak, bleat, breathe, cease, cheat, clean, clear, colleague, conceal, congeal, cream, crease, creature, deal, dean, decrease, defeat, disease, dream, dreary, each, eager, eagle, ear, ease, east, Easter, eat, fear, feast, feature, freak, gear, gleam, glean, heap, heat, heath, heathen, heave, increase, leadx2, leaf, league, lean, leap, lease, leash, least, leave, meagre, meal, mean, measles, near, neat, ordeal, peach, peat, plead, please, pleat, preach, queasy, reach, really, reap, rear, reason, release, repeat, retreat, reveal, scream, seal, sear, season, seat, sheaf, sheath, smear, sneak, speak, spear, squeak, squeal, squeamish, steam, streak, stream, teach, teak, tearx2, tease, theatre, treacle, treason, treat, treaty, veal, wean, weary, weasel, weave, wheat, wreath, year, yeast, zeal.
Open e (eve, evil, zero): Adhesive, arena, cafeteria, cedar, chameleon, Chinese, comedian, compete, complete, concrete, convene, convenient, decent, demon, equal, era, even, evil, experience, exterior, extreme, female, fever, frequent, genie, genius, hero, hyena, imperial, inferior, ingredient, intermediate, legal, legion, lenient, material, medium, mere, meteor, meter, millipede, mysterious, obedient, period, peter, polythene, precede, previous, query, recent, recess, region, relay, scheme, sequence, sequin, series, serious, serum, species, sphere, stampede, strategic, superior, supreme, swede, tedious, theme, theory, these, torpedo, trapeze, vehicle, Venus, zero.
He, me, she.
Open i: Albino, antique, aubergine, bikini, clementine, fatigue, guillotine, machine, magazine, margarine, marine, mosquito, plasticine, police, prestige, ravine, regime, routine, sardine, suite, tambourine, tangerine, trampoline, unique, vaseline, pizza.
Achieve, belief, believe, brief , chief, diesel, field, fiend, fierce, grief, grieve, hygienic, medieval, niece, pierce, priest, relief, relieve, shield, shriek, siege, thief, thieve, tier, wield, yield.
Caffeine, codeine, protein, seize, weir, weird,
conceive /coneit, deceive /deceit, receive /receipt.
Assorted other variants: People; cathedral, secret; pizza, ski, souvenir; debris.
-en / -on / -an /-ain /-in - (fasten, certain, apron...)
The unstressed vowel in endings, before –n is spelt mainly e,
but with many exceptions:
Abdomen, alien, awaken, barren, batten/baton, bitten, bracken, brazen, brighten, chicken, children, chosen, christen, citizen, delicatessen, dozen, driven, eleven, even, fallen, forgotten, frighten, frozen, garden, given, glisten, golden, happen, heathen, heaven, hidden, hydrogen, kindergarten, kitchen, kitten, laden, lessen/lesson, lichen, listen, loosen, madden, mitten, often, omen, open, oven, oxygen, pollen, raven, ridden, ripen, risen, rotten, sadden, seven, sharpen*, sodden, specimen, spoken, stamen, stolen, strengthen, sudden, sullen, swollen, taken, threaten, token, vixen, warren, women, wooden, woollen, written.
Abandon, apron, bacon, badminton, baron, beacon, beckon, bison, carbon, carton, cauldron, common, comparison, cordon, cotton, coupon, crayon, crimson, damson, demon, dragon, electron, flagon, gallon, heron, horizon, iron, jettison, lemon, mason, matron, melon, mutton, nylon, octagon, pardon, pentagon, person, phenomenon, piston, poison, prison, pylon, python, reason, reckon, ribbon, salmon, salon, Saxon, season, sermon, siphon, skeleton, summon, talon, treason, venison, wagon, wanton, weapon.
Chameleon, dungeon, luncheon, pigeon, surgeon, truncheon.
Alsatian, amphibian, cardigan, Christian, civilian, comedian, Dalmatian, historian, hooligan, Indonesian, magician, metropolitan, musician, ocean, optician, organ, orphan, partisan, pedestrian, pelican, republican, Roman, rowan, ruffian, slogan, suburban, tartan, toucan, turban, urban, utopian, vegetarian, veteran, woman.
Bargain, captain, certain, fountain, mountain, porcelain, villain.
Aspirin, basin, bulletin, cabin, catkin, coffin, cousin, dolphin, gherkin, goblin, javelin, origin, paraffin, penguin, pumpkin, raisin, robin, satin, sequin, tarpaulin, urchin, vermin.
-ence/-ance – (commence / ambulance) – The spelling of this
unstressed endings is unpredictable:
Absence, adolescence, circumference, commence, competence, conference, confidence, consequence, difference, essence, evidence, existence, experience, independence, indifference, influence, innocence, insolence, intelligence, interference, licence, occurrence, offence, presence, providence, reference, science, sentence, sequence, silence, violence, conscience, patience.
Abundance, acceptance, accordance, alliance, allowance, ambulance, appearance, appliance, assurance, balance, distance, endurance, finance, fragrance, guidance, ignorance, importance, instance, insurance, maintenance, nuisance, performance, resistance, significance, substance, vengeance.
-ent / -ant - (competent/ protestant)
The main spelling for this unstressed ending is -ent,
in at least 107 words,
with 35 exceptions:
Assistant, brilliant, covenant, defiant, distant, elephant, fragrant, gallant, giant, ignorant, important, infant, instant, jubilant, lieutenant, merchant, pageant, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, protestant, relevant, remnant, restaurant, sergeant, sextant, truant, tyrant, valiant, warrant.
Applicant, descant, significant, vacant. Extravagant.
er /ur / ir / ear ... - (berth, burst, bird, earn, worth)
The stressed er-sound is spelt very unpredictably.
Berth, fern, her, herb, herd, jerk, nerve, perch, serve, stern, swerve, term, verb, verge, verse, were.
Advertisement, alert, alternative, anniversary, assert, certain, commercial, concern, confer, conserve, conversion, deserve, dessert, detergent, determine, emerge, eternal, exert, expert, external, fertile, germinate, hermit, impertinent, insert, interpret, jersey, kernel, merchant, mercury, mercy, observe, perfect, perfume, permanent, permit, person, pertinent, preserve, refer, reserve, reverse, sermon, serpent, terminate, termite, thermal, transfer, universal, university, verdict, vermin, version, versus, vertical.
Blur, burden, burglar, burgle, burly, burn, burr, burst, church, churn, curfew, curl, curlew, curse, curt, curve, disturb, excursion, fur, furnish, furry, further, gurgle, hurdle, hurl, hurt, hurtle, incursion, lurch, lurk, murder, murmur, nasturtium, nurse, nursery, occur, purchase, purple, purpose, purr, purse, return, slur, spur, spurn, spurt, sturdy, suburb, surf, surface, surge, surgeon, surgery, surname, surplus, survey, Thursday, topsy-turvy, turban, turbine, turf, turkey, turmoil, turn, turnip, turquoise, turtle, urban, urchin, urge, urn, yurt.
Birch, bird, birth, chirp, circle, circuit, circular, circumstances, circus, confirm, dirt, encircle, fir, firm, first, flirt, girder, girdle, girl, mirth, shirk, shirt, sir, skirmish, skirt, smirk, squirm, squirt, stir, swirl, third, thirst, thirteen, thirty, twirl, virtually, virtue, whirl, whirring.
Earl, early, earn, earnest, earth, heard, learn, pearl, rehearse, search, yearn.
Word, work, world, worm, worse, worship, worst, worth.
Attorney. Courtesy, journal, journey.
-er /-or /-our... - (after, actor, nectar, armour;
The unstressed -er ending is spelt -er in at least 315 common
words, but over 200 words use other spellings:
The different endings sound very much alike in ordinary speech, but it helps to exaggerate their pronunciation when learning to spell them. This leaves many people believing that they sound different too, but very few really do.
Center, fiber, oger, saber, theater, kilometer – are spelt
centre, fibre, ogre, sabre, theatre, kilometre
in UK English, where there is also differentiation between
metre (measure of 100cm) and meter (measuring device).
Actor, advisor, alligator, ambassador, ancestor, anchor, assessor, author, boaconstrictor, calculator, castor, conductor, conveyor, corridor, decorator, demonstrator, director, doctor, editor, elevator, emperor, equator, error, escalator, factor, gladiator, governor, indicator, interior, inventor, investors, junior, juror, legislators, liquor, major, manor, mayor, minor, mirror, monitor, motor, navigator, operator, orator, prior, professor, proprietor, radiator, razor, rector, refrigerator, respirator, rotor, scissors, senator, senior, sensors, solicitor, spectator, sponsor, successor, superior, supervisor, surveyor, survivor, tailor, tenor, terror, tractor, traitor, tutor, victor, visitor, warrior.
In American English the following are also with –or, but –our in UK:
Armour, behaviour, colour, favour, flavour, glamour, harbour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour, odour, parlour, rumour, saviour, savour, splendour, tumour.
Angular, burglar, caterpillar, cellar, circular, collar, dollar, familiar, grammar, jaguar, liar, lunar, muscular, nectar, particular, peculiar, pillar, polar, poplar, popular, regular, scholar, secular, similar, solar, spectacular, sugar, vicar, vulgar.
Answer, chauffeur, jodhpurs, martyr.
Badger, danger, endanger, ginger, manager, manger, merger, passenger, stranger, teenager.
Conjure, exposure, injure, leisure, measure, pleasure, treasure, procedure.
Butcher, catcher, pitcher.
Adventure, agriculture, architecture, capture, caricature, creature, culture, departure, expenditure, feature, fracture, furniture, future, gesture, lecture, legislature, literature, manufacture, miniature, mixture, nature, picture, puncture, scripture, signature, structure, temperature, torture, venture, vulture.
In UK English an unstressed –a ending is pronounced much like an –er one too:
Algebra, antenna, area, arena, armada, asthma, banana, cafeteria, camera, capita, china, cinema, cobra, dahlia, data, dilemma, diploma, drama, era, extra, formula, gala, gondola, gorilla, gymkhana, hydrangea, hyena, idea, larva, lava, llama, malaria, militia, nebula, opera, orchestra, panda, panorama, peninsula, piazza, piranha, pizza, pneumonia, propaganda, pupa, quota, regatta, replica, soda, sofa, stigma, tarantula, tiara, tuba, tundra, umbrella, utopia, vanilla, veranda, via, villa, yoga, zebra. Cheetah.
F – (fun; sniff),
but not in the following:
Phantom, pharaoh, phase, pheasant, phenomenon, philosophy, physics, physiological, phone, photograph, phrase;
alphabet, amphibian, asphyxiate, apostrophe, catastrophe, cellophane, decipher, dolphin, elephant, emphasise, nephew, orphan, pamphlet, prophet, sapphire, siphon, sophisticated, sphere, symphony, trophy, typhoon;
Graph, Joseph, nymph, triumph.
Cough, trough, enough, rough, sloughx2 [slou/sluf], tough.
Chef, clef, if, of.
-ff- / -f- (offer – profit) - unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
G - (garden; get, gift) - Some words have extra letters after g
to show that it should be pronounced as in
‘garden’, and not with the j-sound, of ‘gentle giant’:
Gherkin; spaghetti. Guess, guest, guerrillas.
Guillotine, guilt, guinea-pig, guitar, disguise, guide; dinghy, guy.
Hard g before e, i and y without extra letters:
Gear, geese, get, geyser, anger, eager, finger, hunger, linger, tiger, hamburger, forget, target.
Giddy, giggle, gild, gills, gilt, girder, girdle, girl, give; begin, corgi, gymkhana.
With totally surplus extra letters after g (cf. got big):
Ghastly, guarantee, guard, ghost, ghoulish, yogurt/yoghurt.
Catalogue, dialogue, epilogue, synagogue. Colleague, fatigue, league. Meringue, tongue.
-ge, -gi- - (age, engine, revenge) - are the main spellings for a
j-sound inside words and in endings, except in:
Adjective, inject, object, objection, project, reject, subject. Majesty, majestic.
Spinach, sandwich (in UK pronunciation).
(For ‘gentle/jester’ see J.)
-gg- / -g- - (shaggy – dragon) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
H – (hot, hoot) – with very few exceptions:
Who, whom, whose, whooping. Whole, wholly.
H can cause reading problems by being silent
(school, ghastly, when), as shown under C, G and W.
I – (sit)) – with at least 53 exceptions,
mainly y which has a variable sound (typical type)
Build, built, busy, English, pretty, sieve, vineyard, women.
Abyss, crypt, crystal, cyclical, cygnet, cymbals, cyst, eucalyptus, gym, hymn, hypnotise, lynch, lynx, mystery, myth, Olympics, rhythm, syllable, symbol, symmetry, sympathy, symptom, synchronise, syndicate, syndrome, synthesis, system.
The following words should really have a doubled consonant too (like ‘syllable’ and ‘symmetry’)
Chrysalis, cylinder, cynical, lyric, physics, synagogue, synonym, syrup, typical, tyranny.
With y for an unstressed i-sound:
Analysis, bicycle, chrysanthemum, hysterical, pyjamas, platypus, synopsis, syringe.
i-e - (bite) - with quite a few exceptions:
Bite/bight(bay), knight/night, lite/light, mite/might, rite/right/write, slight/sleight(of hand), sight/site/cite,
alight, blight, bright, delight, fight, flight, fright, frighten, lightning, mighty, tight.
Behind, bind, blind, find, grind, hind, kind, mind, ninth, pint, rind, wind x2;
Bible, bridle, disciple, idle, rifle, stifle, trifle. (cf. libel, idol - biblical).
Child, mild, wild, whilst; island; climb (cf. children, mildew)
Tire/tyre, asylum, cycle, cypress, dyke, dynamic, dynamite, dynamo, hyacinth, hydrangea, hydrogen, hyena, hygrometer, hypothesis, nylon, paralyse, psychology, pylon, python, rhyme, scythe, style, thyroid, type, tyrant.
Eider-down, Fahrenheit, kaleidoscope.
Either, neither (UK pronunciation). Choir. Resign, sign.
In- / en- - (increase, enquire) - mostly in-,
Enable, enamel, encamp, enchant, encircle, enclose, encounter, encourage, encrusted, endanger, endeavour, endure, engage, enforce, engrave, engulf, enjoy, enlarge, enlist, enquire, enrage, enrol, entangle, entertain, enthusiastic, entire, entitled, environment.
Some people make an effort to pronounce the unstressed en- prefix as en- rather than in-, but in most people’s normal speech they sound the same:
Inevitable, infect, inferior, inflate, inform, infuriate, inhabit, inhale, inject, inoculate, inquire, insane, insist, insolent, insult, intact, intend...
J – (jam, job, jug)
Before a, o and u the spelling is completely regular,
but unpredictable before e, i and y:
Jelly, jest, jet, jettison, jetty, jealous, jerk, jersey; jeans, jeep, jeer, Jew, jewel.
Jiffy, jig, jigsaw, jilt, jingle. Jive.
Gem, general, generation, generous, genie, genius, gentle, genuine, geography, geranium, germ, gesture.
Gin, ginger, gipsy/gypsy, giraffe, gym, gyp. Giant, gyroscope.
K - is used:
1) before e and i (kept, kitten, make),
2) after long vowels (seek, speak) and
3) after consonants (milk, ankle, mark, risk),
1) Chemical, orchestra; ache, opaque;
architect, bronchial, orchid;
marquee, mosquito, quay/key.
2) antique, boutique, technique, unique.
3) Circle, conker/conquer, monarch, uncle,
disk/disc, mollusc, mosque, picturesque, grotesque.
L - (lamp) – As a first letter, l is regular, except:
-le - (dangle, nimble) - for a final l-sound
after several consonants,
Kernel, kestrel, mongrel, satchel, scoundrel.
Council/counsel, morsel, parcel,
pencil, stencil, tonsil, utensil.
-ll- / -l- - (ballad – salad) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants and also
au and o-e (for maul/all and stole/scroll)
The only certain ll spelling is for -ell (tell, foretell),
at the enf of short and long words,
unlike full and fill - beautiful, fulfil.
But: farewell and welcome.
M – (mum) - with the exceptions:
Lamb, limb, bomb, aplomb, crumb, dumb, numb, plum/plumb, plumber, thumb, succumb.
Autumn, column, dam/damn, condemn, him/hymn, solemn.
-mm- / -m- - (common – comic) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
N – (nun, boffin) – with the exceptions:
Need/knead, new/knew, nit/knit, night/knight,
no/know, nob/knob, not/knot.
Knack, knave, knee, kneel, knife, knobbly, knock, knuckle.
Gnash, gnat, gnaw, gnome. Foreign, sovereign. Pneumonia, pneumatic.
Determine, discipline, famine, feminine, genuine, heroine,
imagine, masculine, medicine.
Gone, shone; scone (pronounced ‘scon’ and ‘scone’).
-nn- /-n- - (annual – manual) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
O – (on spot) - exceptions
mainly just after w and qu:
Swallow, swamp, swan, swap, waft, wand, wander, want/wont, wanton, warrant, warren, warrior, was, wash, wasp, watch, watt, wattle, what.
Quality, quadrangle, quantity, quarantine, quarry,
squabble, squad, squander, squash, squat.
Also: Cough, trough; laurel, sausage.
o - e, -o - (note, no)
In more recently imported English words
the long o-sound is spelt regularly, with an ‘open o’:
o followed by a single consonant and e (vote)
or a single consonant and another vowel (soda)
or simply –o in endings (solo).
In everyday words of Anglo-Saxon origin the spelling of this sound is highly unpredictable:
Approach, boast, boat, broach/brooch, cloak, coach, coal, coast, coat, coax, cockroach, croak, float, foal, foam, gloat, goal, goat, groan, load, loaf, loan, loathe, moan, oaf, oak, oath, oats, poach, road, roam, roast, shoal, soak, soap, stoat, throat, toad, toast.
Knoll, poll/pole, roll/role, scroll, stroll, toll, troll, swollen, wholly.
Control, enrol, patrol.
Bold, cold, fold, gold, hold, old, scold, sold, solder, soldier, told.
Folk, yolk. Holster. Bolt, colt, dolt, jolt, revolt.
Both, sloth. Only. Gross. Host, most, post, postal, poster.
Mould, moult, soul/sole, shoulder, smoulder.
Goes. Mauve. Noble.
Blown, bowl, grown, growth, known, mown, own, shown, sown/sewn, thrown, rowan.
Blow, bowx2, crow, flow, glow, grow, know, low, mow, rowx2, show, slow, snow, sowx2, stow, throw, tow.
Arrow, barrow, bellow, below, billow, burrow, elbow, fellow, follow, gallows, hollow, marrow, narrow, pillow, shadow, shallow, swallow, sorrow, sparrow, tomorrow, wallow, widow, willow, window, yellow.
Doe, floe, foe, hoe, roe, sloe, toe, woe.
Oh/owe. So/sew. Dough, though.
Ago, also, fro, go, hello, no.
Alone, arose, bone, bony, broke, choke, chose, chosen, close, clothes, clover, code, cone, cope, cove, dole, dome, dose, doze, drone, drove, froze, frozen, grocer, grope, hole, holy, home, hope, hose, joke, lone, mole, nose, open, over, poke, pony, pope, primrose, rode, rope, rose, scope, slope, smoke, spoke, stoke, stole, stolen, stone, strode, stroke, tadpole, throne, tone, whole, woke, wove, wrote, yodel, yoke.
More recently imported words
with regular o-e and -o spellings:
Alcove, associated, bulldoze, crochet, chrome, commotion, component, compose, casserole, devoted, diploma, dispose, elope, explode, expose, global, heroic, impose, Joseph, jovial, kimono, local, located, lotion, mobile, mode, moment, motel, motive, node, nomad, note, notice, oboe, ocean, October, omen, opal, oppose, opponent, oval, phone, poem, polar, pose, postpone, potion, proboscis, process, programme, promote, proposal, protest, quote, robe, remote, Roman, rover, slogan, sober, sociable, social, socialism, socialist, soda, sofa, solar, suppose, token, total, trombone, utopia, vocal, vote, yodel, yoke, zodiac, zone.
Albino, armadillo, banjo, bingo, buffalo, cargo, cello, disco, domino, duo, dynamo, echo, Eskimo, flamingo, halo, hero, judo, kimono, motto, panto, piano, piccolo, Pluto, polo, potato, pro, pseudo, radio, ratio, solo, soprano, studio, tango, tobacco, tomato, tornado, torpedo, trio, video, volcano, zero.
But: Bungalow. Cocoa. Oboe. Pharaoh. Depot.
Oi, -oy - (spoil, ploy) – These spellings have
Loyal, (loyalty), oyster, royal, (royalty), voyage.
OO, -oo - (food /good, too) - with many exceptions.
Other spellings for long oo:
Brutal, brute, crucial, crude, fluent, fluid, Fluke, flute, frugal, glucose, intrude, jubilant, July, June, Jupiter, Jury, Juvenile, lubricate, ludo, ludicrous, lukewarm, luminous, lunar, lunatic, plural, prune, recluse, ruby, rude, ruin, rule, rural, secluded, truant, truce, truly, truth, Zulu.
Bruise, cruise, sluice; fruit, recruit.
Acoustic, bivouac, boutique, coupon, group, recoup, route, soup, toucan, tourist, troupe, wound, youth.
Lose, move, prove.
Gruesome. Sleuth. Manoeuvre. Shrewd, strewn.
Blew/blue, flew/flue/flu, threw/through, brew, crew, drew, grew, screw, shrew, slew, strew, cashew.
Clue, glue, rue, true, accrue, construe. Gnu, guru.
Do, who, lasso. You. Choux. Canoe.
Poo/pooh, shoo/shoe, too/to/two.
Long oo-sound spelt oo:
Baboon, balloon, bloom, boom, boon, boost, boot, brood, broom, cartoon, choose, cocoon, cool, doom, droop, food, fool, gloom, goose, groom, groove, harpoon, hoof, hooligan, hoop, hoot, lagoon, loom, loop, loose, loosen, loot, macaroon, maroon, mood, moon, moor, moot, mushroom, noodle, noon, noose, pontoon, poodle, pool, poop, poor, proof, roof, room, root, saloon, school, schooner, scoop, scoot, scooter, shoot, smooth, snooker, soon, soothe, spoof, spook, spool, spoon, stool, stoop, swoon, swoop, tool, tooth, troop, whoop, zoom.
Boo, coo, goo, loo, moo, woo, zoo,
bamboo, cockatoo, hullabaloo, igloo, kangaroo,
shampoo, tattoo, voodoo, yahoo.
Short oo spellings are all unpredictable
and borrowed from spellings for other sounds
(e.g. good/food, should/shoulder, full/dull).
Good, hood, stood, wood.
Book, brook, cook, hook, look, rook, shook, took.
Wool. Whoosh. Foot.
Could, should, would.
Bull, full, pull, bullet, bullion.
Bush, cushion, push, shush.
Put, butcher, pudding, pussy, sugar.
Wolf, woman. Courier.
Or, -ore – (lord, more) - The stressed or-sound has
few irregular spellings inside words:
Course/coarse, horse/hoarse, source, resource. Court. Tournament.
Quart, quarter. Warm, warn, wart. Board, hoard.
As an ending -or is spelt unpredictably:
For/four, (fourth, fourteen, forty), nor, or/oar.
Door, floor, moor, poor/pour, tour, your.
Boar, roar, soar. Abhor.
Bore, chore, core, fore, gore, more, ore, pore, score, shore, snore, sore, store, tore, swore, wore/war.
Adore, ashore, before, carnivore, folklore, ignore, implore.
In standard UK English the regular –aw endings
have the same sound as -ore: Awe, claw, draw,
flaw, gnaw, jaw, saw, straw, thaw, law, paw, raw.
Ou, -ow - (sound, now) – mainly ou inside words and
-ow at the end, but with a few exceptions:
Flour/flower, our/hour, power, shower, tower.
Brown, clown, crown, down, drown, frown, gown, town.
Crowd, powder. Coward.
Fowl, growl, howl, owl, prowl, scowl, towel.
Bough, plough, sloughx2[sluf/slou]; thou.
P – (pop) – regular spelling, but
the letter is sometimes silent
(pneumatic, psalm, pseudo-, psycho-, ptarmigan, receipt)
or barely audible (consumption, empty, exempt, sumptuous, tempt.)
-pp- /-p- - (poppy – copy) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
Qu - (quick) - usual spelling for the kw-sound,
Acquaint, acquire, acquit. Choir.
R - (run) - Some words spell the
r-sound with wr or rh.
Wrangle, rap/wrap, wrath, wreck, wren, wrench,
wrestle, wretch, wreak, wreath, wriggle,
ring/wring, wrinkle, wrist, written,
right/rite/write, writhe, wrong, wrote,
Rhythm, rhyme, rhinoceros, rhododendron,
-rr- / -r- - (merry – very) – unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
S - (set, sit) – An initial s-sound before e, i and y is
often spelt c:
Sell/cell, seller/cellar, sent/cent/scent
Celebrate, celery, cellophane, cement, cemetery, centigrade, central, centre, century, certain, certificate, ceremony.
Seen/scene, scenery. Cease, cedar, ceiling, cereal.
Cigar, cigarette, cinder, cinema, circle, circuit, circular, circulate, circumference, circumstance, circus,
cistern, citizen, citrus, city, civic, civil, civilian, civilisation, civilise. Cygnet. Scissors.
Cider, site/cite/sight. Cycle. Science, scythe.
-s- - (nasal) – Inside words, between vowels
s in the main spelling for the z-sound,
but with exceptions:
Bazaar, blazer, brazen, frozen gazelle, hazel, horizon, lozenge, magazine, razor, tweezers. Dozen, hazard, lizard, wizard, wizened. [Pronounced: duzzen, hazzard, lizzard, wizzard, wizzend.]
Blizzard, buzzard, dizzy. Possess.
Acquisition, busy, chisel, chrysanthemum, closet, cousin, daisy, deposit, desert x2, deserve, design, designate, desire, desolate, diesel, easel, easy, episode, exquisite, fuselage, geyser, hesitate, Joseph, miser, miserable, mosaic, museum, music, nasal, opposite, partisan, peasant, pheasant, physical, physiological, pleasant, poison, position, positive, presence, present, presentation, preserve, president, presumably, prison, proposal, proposition, raisin, realisation, reason, resemble, resentment, reserve, reservoir, residence, resign, resolution, resolve, resort, result, resume, risen, rosette, thousand, treason, visible, visit, weasel.
-se – (wise) - main spelling for a z-sound in endings,
in at least 200 words, except:
Blaze, craze, crazy, gaze, graze, haze, laze, lazy, maze, raze, amaze.
Breeze, freeze, sneeze, squeeze, wheeze. Trapeze. Seize.
Prize, size, capsize.
Doze, froze, bulldoze. Ooze, booze.
In US also:
Advertize, agonize, apologize, authorize, baptize, characterize, civilize, computerize, emphasize, fertilize, hypnotize, idolize, memorize, merchandize, organize, realize, recognize, sterilize, synchronize, tantalize (the British -ise suffix spelt -ize).
-ss - (kiss, boss) – in endings, after a stressed short vowel
and always in –less and –ness,
except: gas, yes, this, us, bus, plus, thus.
A few words also use -ss after vowels
which are long in standard UK English: brass, class, glass, pass,
-ss- / -c- - (classic – acid) - unpredictable.
See Doubled Consonants.
Sh – (ship, fish) – With only a few exceptions
at the beginning or end of words:
Chalet, champagne, chandelier, charade,
chef, chivalrous, chute.
Sugar, sure (insure).
Moustache, avalanche, microfiche; liquorice.
In the middle of words the spelling of the
sh-sound is very irregular.
Bishop, cashew, mushroom, usher, marshal.
Ancient, appreciate, efficient, sufficient, associated, species. Assure, pressure, issue, tissue.
Crochet, machine, parachute.
Conscience, fascism. Patient.
(See also –ti- for other endings with sh-sound.)
-si-, -su- - (vision, exposure) - for the relatively uncommon
Asia, conclusion, confusion, decision, diffusion, explosion, division, Indonesia, illusion, invasion, occasion, precision, provision, supervision, vision, (television),
Casual, usual, exposure, leisure, measure, pleasure, treasure.
With very few exceptions:
Azure, bourgeois, fissure.
T – (top, pot) – Regular in the stem of words and
at the end of short words, except:
two, pterodactyl; debt, doubt, subtle.
-tt- / -t- - (latter – lateral) – unpredictable. -
See Doubled Consonants.
-tch – (itch) – for ch-sound after short vowels,
rich, much, such, touch, which.
-te – (private) – for final t-sound after a in longer words,
except: acrobat, combat, democrat.
A few words have -te after i:
Composite, definite, exquisite, favourite, granite, infinite,
Bandit, benefit, credit, culprit, deposit, edit, exhibit, explicit, habit, hermit, limit, merit, orbit, profit, prohibit, rabbit, spirit, summit, transit, visit, vomit.
Biscuit, circuit. Forfeit, surfeit.
th – (this thing) – no other spellings
for either of the two sounds.
-ti- - (nation, ambitious, palatial) - main spelling for the
sh-sound within word endings.
After long a, e, o and u (nation, depletion, notion, solution),
there is just one exception: ocean.
There are many exceptions
before –al (palatial/facial) and
after short vowels (ignition/mission) and
after n and r (mention/pension, portion/version).
Circumstantial, confidential, consequential, credential,
differential, essential, existential, influential, potential,
penitential, preferential, presidential, residential,
reverential, sequential, substantial, torrential.
Financial, commercial, controversial.
Facial, glacial, racial, social, crucial.
Artificial, beneficial, judicial, official, sacrificial, superficial.
Ambitious, fictitious, nutritious, propitious, superstitious,
Auspicious, avaricious, delicious, judicious, malicious, officious, pernicious, suspicious, vicious.
Pugnacious, vivacious, audacious, rapacious, spacious, tenacious, voracious.
Atrocious, ferocious, precocious. Precious.
Conscious, luscious. Anxious.
Conscientious, contentious, licentious, pretentious.
Ration. Fashion. Passion.
Ambition, ammunition, competition, composition,
condition, definition, edition, exhibition, expedition,
intuition, opposition, position, proposition, recognition,
repetition, tradition, transition, tuition.
Admission, commission, emission, mission,
permission, transmission, fission.
Discussion, percussion. Cushion.
Attention, convention, detention, intention,
intervention, invention, mention, prevention.
Comprehension, condescension, dimension,
expansion, extension, mansion, pension,
Portion, proportion, extortion.
Aspersion, conversion, dispersion, diversion, immersion, inversion, subversion, version, excursion, incursion.
U – (up) - has many exceptions.
Next to m, n and v
u is often spelt o or o-e (month, money*, love),
* with some words, such as ‘money’ and ‘honey’ also
missing a doubled consonant (cf. funny bunny).
Mum, mummy, mug, mumps, must, much, mustard, mutt, mutter.
Chum, drum, glum, hum, sum, swum.
Clump, dump, hump, jump, lump, scrum, strum, stump.
Monday, money*, monger, mongrel, monk, monkey, month,
Come, some. Comfort, company, compass, pommel, stomach*.
Nut, snug. Fun, gun, nun, run, spun, stun, sun.
Bung, flung, hung, lung, rung, sprung, strung, stung, sung, swung.
Bunk, drunk, junk sunk. Blunt, grunt, hunt, stunt. Bunny, funny.
Nothing. Son, ton. Among, front, tongue, sponge.
Done, none, one[wun]. Honey*, onion*.
Won, wonder. Once [wunce].
Above, cover*, covet*, covey*, covenant*, dove, glove,
govern*, love, oven*, shove, shovel*, slovenly*.
Country, nourish*, young. Enough.
A few other words have tricky spellings for the short u-sound,
without being next to m, n or v:
Bubble, rubble, stubble. - Double*, trouble.
Bud, mud, thud. - Blood, flood.
Bluff, cuff, gruff, puff, stuff. - Rough, slough, tough.
Buzzing. - Cousin*, dozen*.
Culture, dust, supper. - Colour*, does. Southern.
Current, hurry, turret. - Courage*, thorough*.
Hurry. - Worry.
Such. – Touch.
Supple. – Couple*.
Utter. - Other, brother.
u - e, -ue – (tube, tuba; due) – In the stem of words the
'open u' spelling has relatively few exceptions.
Use, units... - Eucalyptus. you/ewe/yew, youth, ewer.
Assuage, fuel... - Sewage, jewel, steward.
Nude - Feud, feudal, neutral, pneumatic, pseudo,
Cumin - rheumatism.
Luminous - Lewd, newt, pewter.
Duke - Nuclear.
Duty - Beauty. Suitable, suitcase.
Reduce … - Juice, nuisance, suicide.
Muse, music… - Tuesday.
In endings the spelling of this sound is more varied:
Cue/queue, due/dew, sue.
Argue, avenue, barbecue, continue, imbue, issue, pursue,
rescue, revenue, statue, subdue, tissue,
value, devalue, venue, virtue.
Chew, few, Jew, knew, new, pew, spew, stew.
Askew, curfew, curlew, mildew, nephew.
View, interview, review.
V, -ve - (vet, have, given) - regular
1) V is generally not doubled,
except in a few modern words (bevvy, chivvy),
regardless of the length of the vowel before it:
even/seven; liver/driver (cf. dinner /diner).
2) A final –v is accompanied by –e
(e.g. have/gave, give/drive),
irrespective of the length of the vowel before it
(cf. hat /hate, bit /bite), except ‘spiv’.
3) A short u-sound next to v tends to be spelt o: glove, lover*.
*The spelling of o for short u, was introduced
before the invention of printing and
before the letter v was added to the English alphabet.
Until then u was used for spelling both the u- and v-sounds. In handwritten texts reading several short, straight strokes next to each other, as in luue [love] could be difficult. For this reason early scribes often spelt short u as o.
W - (wet, win) - has the following
Whack, whale, wharf, what.
Whelk, when, where/wear, whether/weather, whey, overwhelm. Wheedle, wheel, wheeze.
Whiff, whimper, whip, whirl, whirring, whisk, whiskers, whisky/whiskey, whisper, which, whistle, whiz. While, whilst, wine/whine, white, why. Whoosh.
X – (exit, fix) – main spelling for the ks-sound,
with the exceptions:
Accent, accept, access, accelerate, accident.
Eccentric. Success, succeed, succinct.
Excellent, except, excess, exceed, excite.
In a few words x is pronounced gz:
Anxiety, exact, exaggerate, examine, example, exasperate, exert, exist, exhaust.
Y, -y, --y – (yes, my, bunny)
Not many English words begin with y:
Yacht, yahoo, yak, yap, yard, yarn, yawn, yeah, yearn, yeast, yell, yellow, yelp, yes, yesterday, yet, yeti, yew, yield, yodel, yoga, yoghurt, yoke/yolk, you, young, youth, your, yurt.
An initial yoo-sound is spelt mainly with an open u
(apart from 'yew/ you/ ewe' and 'youth')
Ubiquitous, ukulele, unicycle, uniform, unilateral, union, unique, unisex, unison, unit, united, unity, universal, universe, university, uranium, urine, usable/useable, usage, use, useful, usual, usurp, usury, utensil, uterus, utilise, utilities.
--y – (baby, boldly) – Hundreds of words use
--y for an unstressed final ee-sound,
Abbey, alley, attorney, bogey, chimney, chutney, cockney, covey, donkey, hockey, holey, honey, Jersey, jockey, journey, kidney, medley, money, monkey, parsley, pulley, story/storey, trolley, turkey, valley, volley, whisky/whiskey (US).
Brownie, budgie, caddie, collie, cookie, eerie, genie, movie, pixie, prairie, wheelie.
-y - (fly) –y is also the most frequent spelling for a
stressed final ie-sound,
but with exceptions:
By/buy/bye, cry, dry, fly, fry, my, ply, pry, shy, sky, sly, spy, sty, thy, try, why, wry.
Ally, apply, deny, supply, magnify, multiply, verify. (Cf. daddy, mummy...)
Die/dye, lie, pie, tie, vie. High, nigh, sigh, thigh. Rye. Guy.
Z - (zap, rise) – Few English words begin with z
(zany, zap, zeal, zebra, zenith, zero, zest, zigzag, zinc, zip, zither,
zodiac, zone, zoo, zoom, Zulu)
and the only exception is: xylophone.
In the middle of words
the main spelling for the z-sound is s (desire, result) and in
endings –se (rise). - (See -s- and –se.)
-zz- / -z- / -s- - (dizzy –lizard - risen) – unpredictable. -
See Doubled Consonants.
All the words above are also listed in 'Rules and Exceptions of English Spelling' published by Pegasus in 2009