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Spelling Rules: 2º Bachillerato

©Ángela Ruiz 2009-10

English spelling often appears to be totally illogical. The following rules can help you to
decode the mysteries of English spelling. But remember, even the best rules have their exceptions.

ADDING -ER/EST
We make the comparative or superlative forms of short adjectives by adding -er or -est.
Spelling Rule
Just add -er or -est to the end of the adjective, for example:
• quick > quicker > quickest
• great > greater > greatest
• full > fuller > fullest
Exceptions
If the adjective ends in: do this: and add: For example:

consonant + -y change the -y to an -i -er happy > happier > happiest


-est
consonant + -e remove the -e late > later > latest

consonant + vowel + double the last letter hot > hotter > hottest
consonant

Note: adjectives ending in -l are regular, except: cruel > crueller > cruellest

ADDING -ING/-ED
Often we need to add -ing or -ed to a verb to make other forms of the verb, for example:
I was talking when John arrived.
Spelling Rule
Just add -ing or -ed to the end of the base verb:
• work > working > worked
• play > playing > played
• open > opening > opened
Exceptions
If the base verb ends in: do this: and add: For example:

consonant + vowel + double the final -ing stop > stopping > stopped
consonant consonant -ed begin > beginning
and a stressed syllable tap > tapping > tapped
But, for example:
open > opening > opened
(because no stress on last syllable of
open)

consonant + -e remove the -e -ing phone > phoning > phoned


-ed dance > dancing > danced
make > making
rake > raking > raked
dye > dying > dyed

-ie change the -ie to -y -ing lie > lying


die > dying

nothing -d lie > lied


die > died

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Spelling Rules: 2º Bachillerato
©Ángela Ruiz 2009-10

ADDING -LY
We often make an adverb by adding -ly to an adjective, for example: quick > quickly.
Spelling Rule
Just add -ly to the end of the adjective:
• coy > coyly
• loud > loudly
• beautiful > beautifully
• senseless > senselessly
• intelligent > intelligently
Exceptions
If the adjective do this: and add: For example:
ends in:

-ll nothing -y full > fully

consonant + -le remove the final -e -y terrible > terribly

-y (except 1- remove the -y -ily happy > happily


syllable
adjectives)

Note: 1-syllable adjectives ending in -y are regular, except:


day > daily
gay > gaily

ADDING -S
We add -s to words for two reasons:
1. to make plural nouns (boy > boys)
2. to form the 3rd person singular of the present simple tense (I work > you work > he works)
Spelling Rule
Just add -s to the end of the word, for example:
• dog > dogs
• play > plays
• demand > demands
Exceptions
If the word ends in: do this: and add: For example:

-ch nothing -es church > churches


-s mass > masses
-sh brush > brushes
-x fax > faxes
-z box > boxes
chintz > chintzes

-f remove the -f or -fe -ves wife > wives


-fe calf > calves
except:
beliefs, chiefs, dwarfs, griefs, gulfs, proofs,
roofs

consonant + -y remove the -y -ies spy > spies


baby > babies

Note: words that end in -o normally just add s, except:


buffalo > buffaloes ; cargoes (or cargos) ; domino > dominoes ; echo > echoes ; go > goes ; grotto > grottoes
halo > haloes ; hero > heroes ; mango > mangoes ; mosquito > mosquitoes ; motto > mottoes (or mottos) ;
potato > potatoes ; tomato > tomatoes ; tornado > tornadoes ; torpedo > torpedoes ; veto > vetoes ; volcano
> volcanoes

-IBLE OR -ABLE

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Spelling Rules: 2º Bachillerato
©Ángela Ruiz 2009-10

Many words end in -ible and -able. Sometimes it is difficult to remember which spelling to use.
The -ible ending is for words of Latin origin. There are about 180 words ending in -ible. No new words are
being created with -ible endings. Here are the most common examples:

accessible flexible illegible


admissible gullible irresistible
audible horrible irreversible
collapsible illegible ostensible
combustible implausible permissible
compatible inaccessible plausible
comprehensible incontrovertible possible
contemptible incredible responsible
credible indefensible reversible
defensible indelible sensible
destructible inedible susceptible
digestible insensible suggestible
divisible intelligible tangible
edible invincible terrible
fallible invisible visible
The -able ending is for:
• some Latin words, for example: dependable
• non-Latin words, for example: affordable, renewable, washable
• new (modern) words, for example: networkable, windsurfable
Rule of thumb
This rule can help you decide the correct spelling. It works most (but not all!) of the time. Remember, if you
are not sure about a word, it is probably best to use a dictionary. Here is the rule:
• If you remove -able from a word, you are left with a complete word.
• If you remove -ible from a word, you are not left with a complete word (note that accessible,
contemptible, digestible, flexible and suggestible above are among the exceptions to this rule).

ENGLISH AND AMERICAN ENGLISH SPELLING


Here are the principal differences in spelling between English and American English.
English American
English

Final -l is always doubled after one vowel in stressed and unstressed rebel > rebelled rebel >
syllables in English but usually only in stressed syllables in American travel > rebelled
English, for example: travelled travel >
traveled

Some words end in -tre in English and -ter in American English, for centre center
example: theatre theater

Some words end in -ogue in English and -og in American English, for analogue analog
example: catalogue catalog

Some words end in -our in English and -or in American English, for colour color
example: labour labor

Some verbs end in -ize or -ise in English but only in -ize in American realise, realize realize
English, for example: harmonise, harmonize
harmonize