Spelling rules for adding -ed and -ing to verbs.

What is the spelling rule for doubling the consonant in a verb?

In this article we are going to ignore all those irregular past tense verbs which you just have to learn!

For most verbs the simple spelling rules are: past tense is created by adding the suffix  -ed and for the present participle we add -ing.

jump ⇒ jumping or jumped

help ⇒  helping or helped

look ⇒  looking or looked

spelling-rulesIn some cases what makes the straightforward adding of -ed or-ing to the verb a bit more complicated is the spelling. Swim becomes swimming, shop becomes shopping, but how do we know when to double the consonant? When you say the word you cannot hear whether there is a single or double consonant and so I am going to help you discover some spelling rules to follow to make your life easier.


Let’s just clarify the terms we will be using in this article:

  • There are 5 vowels in the English alphabet  a e i o u , and the rest of the letters are called consonants.
  • A Suffix is a small group of letters that are added to the end of a word.  They cannot exist on their own.
  • A syllable is a  unit of pronunciation with one vowel sound – for example red is one syllable, beautiful is three (beau ti ful)

So let’s look at some verbs where we double the consonant:

hit ⇒ hitting

hop ⇒ hopping

run ⇒ running

stop ⇒ stopping

What do the verbs have in common?

How many syllables do they have?   one

What do they all end with?   a consonant

What letter is before the last consonant?   a single vowel

We now have a pattern which can be turned into our first rule:

If the verb is a single syllable and ends in a single vowel followed by a consonant we double the consonant before adding the suffix.

We do NOT double when a word ends in a vowel and two consonant e.g. jump (jumping), start (starting)

We do NOT double when there are two vowels before the last consonant e.g. look (looking), drain (draining)

Now look at these words with two syllables:

forbid ⇒ forbidding

commit ⇒ committing

regret ⇒ regretting

What do these verbs have in common?

Do they have more than one syllable?           Yes

Where is the stress in the word?                    On the last syllable

Our next rule is that

We double the consonant when the last syllable is stressed

There are two exceptions to this rule. When the  stress is on the first syllable we still double with these words:

cancel ⇒ cancelled

travel ⇒ travelling 

Happy spelling with your new spelling rules!







Posted in Uncategorised



English Language Lessons Contact Phone Number
English Language Lessons Contact

English for living

HelpmyEnglish have designed a new course for people who have recently relocated to England and need to develop their English speaking skills to help with everyday living. Contact us for an informal chat.


"....my teacher’s lessons are very well prepared and the course materials are interesting and varied........" Xavier (France)

"....thank you very much for your patience and dedication........ for your kind, funny and interesting lessons........." Hana (Polish) Nurse

"....my individual lessons were perfect. I could choose the amount of conversation and grammar ........" Andi(Switzerland)