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
In 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!