English Spelling

For intermediate to advanced students

by Viv Quarry (www.vivquarry.com)

1. Some words are irregular and you have to learn the plural forms.

child children, woman women, person people, man men, sheep sheep

fish fish, have has, go goes, do does, shelf shelves, knife knives, wife wives

half halves.

2. Some nouns are uncountable and have no plural form.

information, data, poor, insurance, bread, software, unemployed, inflation, butter, cheese etc.


3. Spelling of most verbs and nouns ending in 'S'

If the word ends in 'S', 'SH' or 'CH', add 'ES'

bus buses, church churches, watch watches,

kiss kisses, wash washes, watch watches

If the verb ends in CONSONANT + Y, the 'Y' changes to 'IES'

country countries, party parties, fly flies, study studies

For most other words, and words ending in VOWEL + 'Y', add 'S'

book books, student students, boy boys, day days,

wear wears, speak speaks, live lives, play plays

4. Words of one syllable (one vowel between two consonants)

If a word has one vowel between two consonants and ends in E, the middle vowel has a long sound.

cape, tape, mate, fate, pane, came, made

fine, pine, wine, dine, write, bite, white

cope, pope

cure, cute, plume

If the word has a long vowel sound, there is a single consonant with suffixes.

fined, pining, wining and dining, writing, biting, whiter


cured, cutely, plumed

If a word of one syllable has two vowels between two consonants it will usually mean a long vowel sound and no doubling of the final consonant.

need needing, fear feared, great greater

If a word of one syllable ends in two consonants it will usually mean a long vowel sound and no doubling of the final consonant.

kind kinder, fast faster, wash washing

If there is no 'E' on the end, the middle vowel has a short sound.

cap, tap, mat, fat, pan, cam, mad

fin, pin, win, din, writ, bit, wit

cop, pop

cut, plum, put

If the word has a short vowel sound, double the final consonant with suffixes

Capped, tapping, matted, fatter, panning

Finned, pinning, winner, dinner, written, bitter, witty

Copper, popping

Cutting, putting

5. Words of two syllables

If a word of two syllables ends in a consonant and the stress is on the final syllable, double the final consonant.

prefer preferred, permit permitting, refer referred, admit admittance

If the stress is on the first syllable, no double consonant.

enter entered, benefit benefited, visit visiting

Don't forget that with two syllable words ending in 'Y', don't drop the 'Y' when adding 'ING'.

study studying

6. There are some differences between British and American spelling.

Words which end in 'ER' in American English, end in 'RE' in British spelling

center (USA) centre (UK)

theater (USA) theatre (UK)

centimeter (USA) centimetre (UK)

Final 'L' is usually doubled in British English

traveling (USA) travelling (UK)

quarreled (USA) quarrelled (UK)

canceling (USA) cancelling (UK)

Some verbs ending in 'Z' in American English are sometimes spelt with 'S' in British English

realize (USA) realise (UK)

organize (USA) organise (UK)

Some nouns are spelt differently in British and American English

traveler's checks (USA) traveller's cheques (UK)

For more information on the differences between British and American spelling and grammar, see Viv's worksheet on USA v UK English.


Here is a list some of the most commonly misspelled words in English in alphabetical order. These are the correct spellings. Reading over the list probably won't improve your spelling much, but choosing a few words which you find difficult, and writing them out correctly a few times may help you.

a lot, absence, abundance, accessible, accidentally, acclaim, accommodate, accomplish, accumulate, achievement, acquaintance, across, address, advertisement, aggravate, alright, anoint, annual, apparent, appearance, argument, atheist, athletics, attendance, auxiliary, balloon, barbiturate, bargain, basically, battalion, beggar, beginning, believe, benefitted (UK), benefited (US), biscuit, bouillon, boundary, Britain, broccoli, business, calendar, camouflage, cantaloupe, cemetery, chagrined, challenge, characteristic, changing, chief, cigarette, climbed, collectible, colonel, colossal, column, coming, committee, commitment, comparative, competent, completely, concede, conceive, condemn, condescend, conscientious, consciousness, consensus, consistent, continuous, controlled, coolly, corollary, convenient, correlate, correspondence, counselled (UK), counseled (US), councellor (UK), counselor (US), courteous, courtesy, criticize, deceive, defendant, deferred, definitely, dependent, descend, description, desiccate, desirable, despair, desperate, develop, development, difference, dilemma, dining, disappearance, disappoint, disastrous, discipline, disease, despair, dispensable, dissatisfied, dissipate, dominant, drunkenness, easily, ecstasy, efficiency, eighth, eligible, embarrassment, enemy, entirely, equipped, equivalent, escape, especially, exaggerate, exceed, excellence, excellent, exhaust, existence, expense, experience, experiment, explanation, extremely, exuberance, fallacious, fallacy, familiar, fascinate, February, fictitious, finally, financially, forcibly, foreign, forfeit, formerly, forty, fourth, fulfill, fundamentally, gauge, generally, genius, government, governor, grievous, guarantee, guerilla, guidance, handkerchief, happily, harass, height, heinous, hemorrhage, heroes, hesitancy, hindrance, hoarse, hoping, humorous, hypocrisy, hypocrite, ideally, idiosyncrasy, ignorance, imaginary, immediately, implement, inadvertent, incidentally, incredible, independence, independent, indicted, indispensable, inevitable, influential, information, inoculate, insistent, insurance, intelligence, intercede, interference, interpret, interrupt, introduce, irrelevant, irresistible, irritable, island, jealousy, jewelry, judgment, judicial, knowledge, laboratory, legitimate, leisure, length, lenient, liaison, license, lieutenant, lightning, likelihood, likely, liquefy, loneliness, losing, lovely, luxury, magazine, maintain, maintenance, manageable, maneuver, marriage, mathematics, medicine, memento, millennium, millionaire, miniature, minuscule, minutes, mischievous, missile, misspelled, mortgage, mosquito, mosquitoes, murmur, muscle, mysterious, narrative, naturally, necessary, necessity, either, neighbor, neutron, ninety, ninth, noticeable, nowadays, nuisance, obedience, obstacle, occasion, occasionally, occurred, occurrence, official, omission, omit, omitted, opinion, opponent, opportunity, oppression, optimism, ordinarily, origin, outrageous, overrun, panicky, parallel, parliament, particularly, peaceable, peculiar, penetrate, perceive, performance, permanent, permissible, permitted, perseverance, persistence, physical, physician, picnicking, piece, pilgrimage, pitiful, planning, pleasant, portray, possess, possessive, potato, potatoes, practically, prairie, preference, preferred, prejudice, preparation, prescription, prevalent, primitive, privilege, probably, procedure, proceed, professor, prominent, pronounce, pronunciation, propaganda, psychology, publicly, pursue, quandary, quarantine, questionnaire, quizzes, realistically, realize, really, recede, receipt, receive, recognize, recommend, reference, referred, relevant, relieving, religious, remembrance, reminiscence, repetition, representative, resemblance, reservoir, resistance, restaurant, rheumatism, rhythm, rhythmical, roommate, sacrifice, sacrilegious, safety, salary, sapphire, satellite, scenery, schedule, secede, secretary, seize, separate, sergeant, several, shining, similar, simile, simply, sincerely, skeptic, skeptical, skiing, soliloquy, sophomore, souvenir, specifically, specimen, sponsor, spontaneous, statistics, stopped, strategy, strength, strenuous, stubbornness, subordinate, subpoena, subtle, succeed, success, succession, sufficient, supersede, suppress, surprise, surround, susceptible, suspicious, syllable, symmetrical, synonymous, tangible, technical, technique, temperature, tendency, themselves, theories, therefore, thorough, though, through, till, tomorrow, tournament, tourniquet, tragedy, transferred, truly, twelfth, tyranny, unanimous, undoubtedly, unnecessary, until, usage, usually, vacuum, valuable, vengeance, vigilant, village, villain, violence, visible, warrant, Wednesday, weird, wherever, wholly, yacht, yield, zoology

Are there any words in this list you often use but spell them incorrectly? Try to learn the correct spelling. The tips on Viv's Learning Vocabulary worksheet may help you. You can also use Viv's Bon Database to organise and test words you can't remember how to spell.

Test your spelling, then check the answers in the list above

On-line spelling tests

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