spelling: words ending in a silent “e”

Spelling rules vary for words formed from a root ending in silent e.

Silent e before a suffix beginning with a vowel

The final e is usually dropped before a suffix beginning with a vowel.

  • debate, debatable
  • desire, desirable
  • dine, dining
  • excite, excitable
  • make, makable
  • subdue, subduing

but

  • mile, mileage

Some words, however, can either drop or retain their final e before a suffix beginning with a vowel (the preferred spelling in Canada is the one listed first in the list below):

  • age, aging, ageing
  • like, likeable, likable
  • love, lovable, loveable
  • move, movable, moveable
  • rate, rateable, ratable
  • sale, saleable, salable (US)
  • size, sizable, sizeable

After c or g

When e follows c or g, it is retained before the vowels a and o to preserve the soft sound of these consonants; however, it is not usually retained before i:

  • change, changeable (but changing)
  • courage, courageous
  • gauge, gaugeable (but gauging)
  • knowledge, knowledgeable
  • notice, noticeable (but noticing)
  • peace, peaceable
  • trace, traceable (but tracing)

Note: In the case of knowledgeable, the spelling without an e after the g is also accepted: knowledgable.

Before i

Note that the e is retained even before i in some cases in order to distinguish a word from a similarly spelled one or to preserve a particular pronunciation:

  • dyeing
  • singeing
  • shoeing
  • toeing

but

  • routing

Silent e before a suffix beginning with a consonant

Words ending in a silent e generally retain the e before a suffix beginning with a consonant:

  • complete, completeness
  • hope, hopeless
  • waste, wasteful
  • whole, wholesome

Exceptions

The following words do not retain the e before the suffix ly:

  • due, duly
  • subtle, subtly
  • true, truly
  • whole, wholly

Also, abridgment, acknowledgment and judgment can be spelled with or without an e after the g. In Canada, the preferred spelling is as follows:

  • with the e, for abridgement and acknowledgement; and
  • without the e, for judgment.

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