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THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: THE PRINCIPLES OF SPELLING

1. The formation of the plural of nouns

General rule: add 's' to the singular boy-boys; girl-girls; house-houses; tree-trees
If the noun ends in 's, ss, x, sh or ch', add 'es' bus-buses; loss-losses; box-boxes; bush-bushes; match-matches
If the noun ends in 'y' preceded by a consonant, change 'y' to 'ies' daisy-daisies; lady-ladies; country-countries
But if the noun ends in 'y' prededed by a vowel, add 's' only monkey-monkeys; ray-rays; boy-boys
If the noun ends in 'o' preceded by a consonant, add 'es' hero-heroes; potato-potatoes; tomato-tomatoes there are exceptions, however: piano-pianos
If the noun ends in 'f' or 'fe', change to 'ves' wife-wives; life-lives; knife-knives; thief-thieves. Exceptions: roofs, proofs etc.
Nouns with irregular plurals man-men; woman-women; tooth-teeth; foot-feet, goose-geese; mouse-mice; louse-lice; child-children, ox-oxen
Some nouns have the same form for both singular and plural deer, sheep, fish, dozen, score etc.
Some nouns have no singular form annals, gallows, means, news, pliers, scissors, statistics, tidings, trousers etc.
To form the plural of compound nouns, make the chief word plural sons-in-law; fathers-in-law; step-sons; couts-martial
Some common foreign words and their plural are these formula-formulae; radius-radii; index-indices, crisis-crises; basis-bases; phenomenon-phenomena
2. The doubling of the final consonant before a suffix:
In words of one syllable, the final consonant is doubled before a suffix if the vowel before the consonant is short: bet-betting; bed-bedded; bar-bared; stop-stopped; run-running etc. But: eat-eating (vowel is long)
In words of more than one syllable, the final consonant is doubled if the accent on the last syllable and if the last syllable contains a short vowel. begin-beginning; refer-referred; occur-occurred; deter-deterred; transfer-transferred; forget-forgettable. But: appear-appearing; maintain-maintained (accent not on the last syllable or long vowel in the last syllable)
In words ending in 'l', the 'l' is doubled before a suffix if it is preceded by a short vowel; if it is preceded by a long vowel, it remains single. travel-travelled; dispel-dispelling; wool-woollen. But: feel-feeling
3. The omission of final 'e' before a suffix
Generally a final 'c' is retained before a suffix beginning with a consonant and is dropped before a suffix beginning with a vowel: come-coming; but: comely; name-naming; but: nameless; love-lovable; but: lovely
Exceptions: due-duly; true-truly; whole-wholly; nine-ninth; dye-dyeing; argue-argument.
After 'c' and 'g' an 'e' is retained before 'a' and 'o' (but not before 'i'): advantage-advantageous; change-changeable, but: changing.
4. 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'
The old rule that 'i' comes before 'e' after 'c' applies only when the two vowels are pronounced as 'ee': chief; believe; siege. But: ceiling, perceive, receipt
5. When 'our' becomes 'or' before a suffix
The noun-ending 'our' becomes 'or' before the endings 'ous', 'ate', and 'ist': humour-humorous-humorist; vigour-vigorous-invigorate; labour-laborious
There are some other words that drop a vowel or change a vowel before a suffix: maintain-maintenance; pronounce-pronunciation; sustain-sustenance; explain-explanation; repeat-repetiton; curious-curiosity
6. The endings 'ise' and 'ize'

The easiest way to deal with words ending in 'ise' and 'ize' is to use the ending 'ise' for all words; this is a well-established modern practice. However, a list of certain verbs requiring 'ise' is given here, followed by a list that may end in 'ize'

'-ise'
advertise, advise, comprise, despise, devise, disguise, emphasise, enterprise, exercise, revise, supervise, surprise
'-ize'
baptize, civilize, criticize, memorize, modernize, organize, realize, recognize, subsidize, sympathize, visualize
7. Single 'l' and double 'l'
The suffix meaning 'full of' is 'ful' (single 'l'): beautiful, plentiful, wonderful, grateful, hateful etc.
When a monosyllable ending in 'll' has another word added to it, one 'l' is usually dropped: all:already, always, altogether
full: fulfil
skill: skilful
well: welcome
will: wilful
When the suffix 'ness' is added, both 'l's' are retained: dullness, stillness, illness
Note the spelling 'all right' (there is no such word as 'allright' or 'alright')
8. Difficulties involving 'y'
When 'ing' is added to words ending in 'ie', 'ie' becomes 'y': die-dying; lie-lying; tie-tying
When 's' is added to nouns and verbs ending in 'y' preceded by a consonant, 'y' becomes 'ie': city-cities; country-countries; modify-modifies
But when the final 'y' is preceded by a vowel, an 's' is simply added: monkey-monkeys; valley-valleys; buy-buys
When a suffix to a word ending in 'y' preceded by a consonant is added, 'y' becomes 'i': happy-happier, happiest, happiness, happily; deny-denies, denied, denial
Exceptions: shy-shyness, shyly; dry-dryness
When a final 'y' is preceded by a vowel, it is not changed before a suffix: survey-surveyed, surveyor; dismay-dismayed
Exceptions: pay-paid; lay-laid

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