Spelling - Consonant doubling 2

Goals

To learn and practise the spelling rules associated with base words (of more than one syllable) ending in consonant letters when endings (suffixes) are added.

Lesson plan

In an earlier resource (Consonant doubling 1) we looked at consonant-doubling patterns in short words. We covered examples where an ending (suffix) is added to a base word of only one syllable. In this resource we will complete the picture by looking at longer words, involving base words of more than one syllable.

The lesson includes an activity where students group words according to whether they double the final consonant letter when a suffix is added, or not. Students are asked to identify and make predictions about the patterns for this area of spelling.

Recap

We summed up our findings for one-syllable base words as follows:

Note: Treat final r as if it spells a consonant sound, even if it isn’t actually sounded.

Activity

Let’s look now at the patterns with longer base words. The ‘Otherwise, do not double’ part of the rule above works for them as well as for one-syllable base words: that is, there is no doubling when the base ends in more than one V or C (e.g. perishing, appearing). So we only need to look at longer base words ending with 1V1C.

Ask students to look at the set of examples on the slide, and sort them into two different groups:

Students should drag the tile on to the group label at the bottom of the screen to add it to that group.

Once students have sorted the examples into two groups, ask them if they can find a pattern. When does the final consonant double and when does it not double?

Extra

This pattern based on stress is fairly general. Despite some exceptions, it does apply to a large number of words and so is worth knowing.

For instance, in his 2012 book Spell It Out the linguist David Crystal discusses the pattern with two-syllable verbs ending in r:

Crystal also notes that we follow this pattern with new verbs that enter the language, such as spider. On the Internet you can find examples like these:

The meaning of this verb, as you may already know, relates to the term ‘Web spider’ – a program that browses and indexes the World Wide Web.

Notice that the stress is on the first syllable, and people have used DON’T-DOUBLE spellings. The use of the regular pattern with new verbs shows that it is a genuine pattern that we recognise.

Unfortunately, though, there are a number of exceptions to the general pattern. In particular, quite a few words double the consonant even when the stress is not on the final syllable of the base! Here are some examples:

These are UK spellings – sometimes US spellings are different (e.g. US signaling, signaled).

With these words, we can become familiar with their spellings through reading and encountering them in context. When writing, it is best to check a dictionary if in doubt, or use a spellchecker.

Summary

Let’s sum up what we have found, covering both shorter and longer words. Although there are some exceptions, especially among longer words, these patterns do apply to a large number of words.

Note: Treat final r as if it spells a consonant sound, even if it isn’t actually sounded.

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Spelling - Consonant doubling 2: Activity

Sort the examples into two groups

DOUBLE
DON'T DOUBLE
offer + -ing → offering
transmit + -er → transmitter
open + -ing → opening
visit + -or → visitor
forget + -able → forgettable
ballot + -ed → balloted
occur + -ing → occurring
profit + -able → profitable
begin + -ing → beginning
commit + -ed → committed
occur + -ence → occurrence

Answers

When does the final consonant double and when does it not double?

Hint: Think about the stress patterns of the base word in each example (which syllable in the word is the strongest).

Here are some examples. The symbol ' marks the following syllable as stressed (e.g. for'get indicates forGET):

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