Spelling Rules for the Verb Tenses

Forming the main verb in some English verb tenses involves adding endings. Whenever a new element is added to a word, there may be spelling changes occurring as a result of phonological interaction between the word’s final letters and the ending’s first letter. To know more, read these sections of our review on spelling rules for the English verb tenses.

1. Spelling rules for the
Present Simple
2. Spelling rules for the Past Simple
3. Spelling rules for the Progressive tenses (forming the Present Participle)
4. Special Cases

Make sure you apply these grammar rules, as these are basic spelling issues. In order to know how to use each of these tenses correctly, please click on each tense above to read the related full article.
 

1. Spelling rules for the Present Simple


Spelling rules for adding s in the third person singular


When adding the s ending to a verb in the third person singular in English, there may be some spelling changes:

• Add es to a verb which ends in a whistling sound ( s,sh,ch,x,z,o)
I wash – Suzy washes her car once a week.

I do – Suzy does the dishes every Wednesday.

• In verbs that end with y preceded by a consonant, drop the y, replace it with i and add es. However, If the y is preceded by a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) just add s.
You study – Dan studies English twice a week.
but:
We play –Sharon plays football 3 times a week.
 
 

2. Spelling rules for the Past Simple


Spelling rules for adding ed to regular past verbs


When adding the ed ending to a
regular verb in the Past Simple in English, there may be some spelling changes:

• Add only d to a verb which ends in e.
change – Suzy changed her hairstyle last week.
create – Bach created an abundance of musical pieces.

• In verbs that end with y preceded by a consonant, drop the y, replace it with i and add ed. However, If the y is preceded by a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) just add ed.
study – Dan studied a lot for this test.
but:
play –Sharon played football for 3 hours on the weekend.

The doubling rule: When a verb ends with a letter sequence of consonant-vowel-consonant, double the final consonant.
-If the verb is longer than one syllable, double only if the stress falls on the last syllable.
-The letters h,w,x,y are never doubled ( fix-fixed).
stop (t=consonant, o=vowel, p=consonant):
We sto pped at the store to get some gasoline.

prefer (f=consonant, e=vowel, r=consonant, stress falls on last syllable /fer/ -- double!) :
My friends prefe rr ed that we stay at home and not go out.

but:
visit (s=consonant, i=vowel, t=consonant, stress does not fall on last syllable /sit/ -- don't double!) :
Donna visited her grandparents in New Jersey two weeks ago.
 

3. Spelling rules for the Progressive tenses

Forming the Present Participle


All the progressive verb tense forms are created with the auxiliary verb to be and the present participle form of the verb. Make sure you spell this form correctly according to the following rules:

Spelling rules for adding ing to a verb


When adding the ing ending to a verb in order to form the present participle in English, there may be some spelling changes:

• When a verb ends with e, drop the e before adding ing.
make – Susan is making a special dinner this evening.
[ is making is in the Present Progressive tense]

write – The professor was writing his new book when he was asked to start working on a different project.
[ was writing is in the Past Progressive tense]

• In verbs that end with y add ing with no change !
study – Dan will be studying for the test tomorrow afternoon.
[ will be studying is in the future progressive tense]

• When a verbs ends in ie, drop the ie, replace it with y, and add ing.
die – dying, lie – lying, tie – tying, vie – vying

Susan was tying her shoe laces while she was lying on her bed.
[ was tying, was lying are in the Past Progressive tense]

The reality show contestants will be vying for the first prize.
[ will be vying is in the future progressive tense]

The doubling rule: When a verb ends with a letter sequence of consonant-vowel-consonant, double the final consonant.
-If the verb is longer than one syllable, double only if the stress falls on the last syllable.
-The letters h,w,x,y are never doubled ( fix-fixing).
beg (b=consonant, e=vowel, g=consonant, stress falls on the last and only syllable /beg/ -- double!) :
Please believe me, I am be gging you !
[ am begging is in the Present Progressive tense]

but:
visit (s=consonant, i=vowel, t=consonant, stress does not fall on last syllable /sit/ -- don't double!) :
Donna is visiting her grandparents this evening.
 

4. Special Cases:


The following special cases are relevant when adding either ed or ing, as explained below. We present here the more common irregularities, as others are very rare in usage. Whenever unsure about the spelling of a specific verb form in question, you can rely on the WhiteSmoke
dictionary for a professional spelling check.

• The letter l is doubled in British English even if the final syllable is not stressed.
Rodney was traveling in the Swiss Alps, when he got news of his newborn son.
[American English]

Rodney was trave lling in the Swiss Alps, when he got news of his newborn son.
[British English]

• Double the p in the verb equip, as the u represents a consonant sound /w/.
My company is equi pping us with new computers.

• Double the z in the verb quiz.
My teacher qui zzed us on the irregular verbs in English.

• Add a k after the final c in verbs such as to panic, to traffic, to frolic, and to picnic in order to retain the original /k/ sound of the letter c.
After he heard about the traffic king of drugs, he completely panic ked.

• Keep the final e in certain verbs ending with ge, in order to retain the /j/ sound of the verb. For example, to singe, to binge, to impinge.
Ron was bin geing all night long, sin geing his mustache by mistake after trying to roast some marshmallows on the stove.


Grammar Guide Index
 
 
 











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