This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Search BBC
BBC World Service
BBC BBC News BBC Sport BBC Weather BBC World Service Worldservice languages
spacer gif
You are in: Home > Grammar, Vocabulary & Pronunciation > Ask about English
Learning English
spacer gif
learn it! title
 Spelling and pronunciation
reference book

Zully Ramirez-Gamboa, who is following the business English Internet course "Click here for English", wants to know about rules for pronunciation.

For example: 'Words of one syllable, ending in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel. run -ing; running; big-est; biggest'

If the word ends with two or more consonants, or if the final consonant is preceded by two vowels instead of one, the rule does not apply: debt-or: debtor; yard-age: yardage; swear-ing: swearing. I would like to know other rules, because I will have an oral exam.

Roger replies:more questions
You raise two issues, Zully: spelling and pronunciation. Pronunciation in the stem syllable doesn’t change when the final consonant is doubled as in ‘run - running’, ‘big - bigger’, or ‘shop - shopping’. The doubling of the consonant is important. If the past tense forms of ‘shop’ were spelt ‘shoped’ or ‘shoping’ instead of ‘shopped’ or ‘shopping’ , they would have the same vowel sound as ‘hoped’ or ‘hoping’, and this would be confusing: ‘shoping in the supermarket’, rather than ‘shopping in the supermarket’.
In verbs like 'swear' or 'shout' or 'shoot', the two vowels together produce either a diphthong or a long vowel sound and it is therefore unnecessary to double the consonant in the past tense or past participial form.
Beware exceptions to the rule, though. Thus, while: 'He trailed her by five minutes' would be the norm, if we reverse the 'i' and the 'a' to produce ‘trial’ and we talk about trialling (= testing or piloting) an exam, then the 'l' is doubled, at least in British English: ‘We trialled the exam in South America.’

BBC copyright
 
Learning English | News English | Business English | Watch and Listen
 
Grammar and Vocabulary | Communicate | Quizzes | For teachers
 
Downloads | FAQ | Contact us