Principal Parts: Spelling Changes

May 21, 2021

Spelling Changes with the Four Principal Parts

When adding an ending to a verb, you sometimes have to change the spelling.

Do change the spelling in the following situations:

Base Verb SpellingSpelling Change
Single syllable1 verb ending in a consonant2Double the consonant when adding an -ing or -ed ending.shop + -ing = shopping
shop + -ed = shopped
Ends in a single vowel plus a consonant and carries the stress3 on the last syllableDouble the consonant when adding an -ing or -ed ending.refer + -ing = referring
refer + -ed = referred
Ends in a consonant + yChange y to ie when adding -s.clarify + -s = clarifiesChange y to i when adding -ed.clarify + -ed = clarified
Ends in a silent -eDrop the silent -e before adding -ing.amaze + -ing = amazingJust add a -d instead of -ed.amaze + -ed = amazed
Ends in a -cAdd a k before an -ing or -ed ending.frolic + -ing = frolicking
frolic + -ed = frolicked

Don’t change the spelling in these situations:

Base Verb SpellingSpelling
Most base forms, except those ending in consonant + yMost of the time, spelling changes are not necessary when adding the -s ending to the base form of the verb (i.e. in the third person singular form of the present tense). This is true even for verbs that do require a spelling change for the -ing or -ed ending.shop + -s = shop(vs. shopping and shopped)
refer + -s = refer(vs. referring and referred)
amaze + -s = amaze(vs. amazing)
frolic + -s = frolic(vs. frolicking and frolicked)Verbs ending in a consonant + y, which you already learned about in the above table, are the only exception.
Ends in a consonant + yDon’t make any spelling changes when adding the -ing ending.clarify + -ing = clarifying (vs. clarifies and clarified)
Ends with a single vowel before a consonant, but the stress is not on the last syllableDon’t double the consonant. An example is the verb wander, which has the stress on the a, not the e. (Contrast wander with the verb refer in the previous table.)wander + -s = wanders
wander + -ing = wandering
wander + -ed = wandered
Ends with a double vowel before a consonantDo not double the consonant. (Contrast the verbs cheat and retreat with shop and refer in the previous table.)cheat + -s = cheats
cheat + -ing = cheating
cheat + -ed = cheatedretreat + -s = retreats
retreat + -ing = retreating
retreat + -ed = retreated
Ends in a vowel + yDon’t change y to ie. (Contrast enjoy with the verb clarify in the previous table.)enjoy + -s = enjoys
enjoy + -ing = enjoying
enjoy + -ed = enjoyed
Ends in a vowel + lIn American English, do not double the l even though l is a consonant.travel + -s = travels
travel + -ing = traveling
travel + -ed = traveledNote: In British English, you do double the l before the -ing and -ed endings (travellingtravelled).
  1. When we pronounce words aloud, we break them up into smaller sound units called syllables. For example, the word syl*la*ble itself can be broken up into three syllables. There are also many single syllable words, such as shop and book.
  2. Any letter of the alphabet that is not aeio, or u is considered a consonant.
  3. When we say words aloud, we pronounce certain syllables more loudly than others. The syllable that is pronounced the loudest is the stressed syllable. (Emphasis is another word that is commonly used for stress.)

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