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English Spelling Rules

Spelling rule #1: S or ES?

Spelling rule #1:  S or ES?

The normal rule to make regular plurals in English, or to change a regular verb to the he/she/it form (also known as the third person singular), is to add S to the end of the word.

For example:

  • One dog --> Lots of dogs
  • I work --> She works
  • A car --> Some cars
  • You like tea --> She likes coffee


But sometimes we need to add ES instead. When the word ends in: CH, SH, X, SS (and ZZ but this isn't common), then we have to add ES.

For example:

  • I watch TV every night. --> He watches TV at the weekend.
  • I have one wish. --> The genie gave him three wishes.
  • Can you fix this? --> A mechanic fixes cars.
  • Give me a kiss! --> She gave her daughter lots of kisses.

Spelling rule #2: doubling consonants

Spelling rule #2: doubling consonants

Some words which end in consonants double the last letter when suffixes (extra letters) are added to the end of the word.

For example:

  • hot --> hotter
  • swim --> swimming

However, this doesn't always happen.


So what's the rule?

If a word ends in a consonant that has one vowel before it, then the last consonant is doubled.

For example:

  • travel --> traveller (British English spelling)
  • big --> biggest


This does not usually happen with words with more than one syllable ending in ER, or OR. (Of course, there are exceptions!)

For example:

  • fur / furry / furred / furring
  • plot / plotted /plotter

But

  • miser / misery / miserly
  • target / targeted
  • bigot / bigoted
  • travel / traveler (American English spelling)


Be careful!

If a word has two vowels before the last consonant, or there are two consonants at the end, the last letter isn't doubled.

For example:

  • old --> oldest
  • shoot --> shooter

Spelling rule #3: the disappearing E

If a verb ends in E, then the E is removed before adding ING to the end of the word.

For example:

  • make --> making
  • come --> coming
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