Complete English Spelling and Pronunciation Rules

Some basics of English are very important to learn and spelling and pronunciations are one of them. Complete English Spelling and Pronunciation Rules are given in this lesson. This lesson is divided into two parts. In the first part, we will discuss pronunciation, its different terms, and rules. In the next part, we will discuss the rules of spellings.

English Spelling and Pronunciation

1. Pronunciation

i. Stress

We lay stress on syllables when a word is made up of more than one syllable. For example, in circus (sur’kus) the first syllable is stressed. In disturb (dis-turb’) the second syllable is stressed. Note that single-syllable words mostly go unstressed like ice (iis). The present book gives this stress through the sign (‘).

ii. Words differ with sounds

Note how the same letters “tr” and “si” give us different sounds in travel (trav’ul), tree, tribe (triib), trick (trik), sing and sign (siin), etc. Our lips, teeth, tongue, and palate play their roles in sound production. The consonant sounds are easier to produce because parts of the mouth resist their production. The vowel sounds face no resistance of the mouthparts. Their production is controlled by “the size and shape of the sound chamber formed by the mouth.” Compare the vowel sounds of “o” and “u” in the words old (oeld), oppose (u-poez’), orange (or’inj) and ultimatum (ul’tu-mae ‘tum). We have provided these differences in the Supplement to this book.

iii. Practical advice

At present your greatest need is to pronounce words correctly. You should at least learn to pronounce the words explained in the “How to speak” columns. This will be helpful to you in taking up greater pronunciation assignments later.

Complete English Spelling and Pronunciation Rules

2. Spelling

Spelling is a matter of habit. The best way of learning correct spelling is to attend to each word individually. Some ways, however, can be shown for general guidance.

i. Spell the words by dividing them into syllables. When you pronounce the syllable correctly, you generally spell it correctly, too. (A syllable is a part of the word that can be pronounced as a unit. Many words are one-syllabled.)

But note

  • representative= rep-ri-zen-tae-tiv
  • In this word the second syllable is “re,” but the sound produced by it is “ri.” Also, note the word affirmative= u-fur’mu-tiv.’ The first syllable is “a,” but the sound produced is of “u” (as given by “u” in “under”). The third syllable is “ma,” but the sound produced is of “mu.” Such syllable sound production, when the sound of written letters does not agree with the “spoken” syllable, should be taken care of.


  • translate= trans-laet; valley= val’ee; penny= pen’ee
  • In words like the above, the stressed letter quite often is double. But many words have stressed syllables without there being double letters.

In this sense, often the speaking of syllables leads to almost correct spelling.

ii. There are lots of words in which one or more letters are silent. You have to take care that their pronunciation does not agree with their spellings.

  • walk (spelling)= wok (pronunciation); assign= u-siin’; design= di-ziin’; folk= foek; hour= our, patient= pae shunt; sight= siit

Much of the pleasure of the English language lies in silencing letters and changing their basic sounds.

iii. We write je for a long e:

  • believe= (bi-leev’); field (feeld); grieve (greev); priest (preest)

We write ei when the sound is not long e though it may be a long a:

  • foreign= (for in); eight (aet); height (hiit); heifer (hefur’) -. a young cow.

iv. Changes in words and spelling — adding prefixes and suffixes.

(a) The spelling of the prefix does not change when it is added to a word.

  • im+possible= impossible; mis+rule= misrule; un+natural= unnatural; mis+guide= misguide; dis+advantage= disadvantage

(b)The suffixes “ness” and “ly,” when added, do not generally change the words:

  • pure+ly= purely; strange+ly= strangely; obedient+ly= obediently
  • full+ness= fullness; great+ness= greatness; lawless+ness= lawlessness

(c)The “e” at the end is generally kept as it is when a suffix beginning with a consonant is added:

  • free+ly= freely; hope+less= hopeless; base+less= baseless; strange+ly= strangely

Note these exceptions to the above

  • accompany+ment= accompaniment; acknowledge+ment= acknowledgement (or acknowledgment); judge+ment= judgement (or judgment); greedi+ness= greediness; stormy+ness= storminess

(d)When a consonant comes before “y,” the last letter in a word, we change it to “i” with a suffix that does not begin with “i”:

  • silly+ness= silliness; showy+ness= showiness; ninety+th= ninetieth

Note these exceptions to the above

  • shy+ness= shyness; dry+ly= dryly (or drily); terrifying= terrifying

The words that end in “y” and before which vowels are used often do not change with a suffix:

  • play+er= player; play+ful= playful; boy+hood= boyhood; toy+ing= toying

v. Forming noun plurals

Normally we add “s” to nouns to form their plurals.

  • house-houses; student-students.

(b)We add “es” to the nouns ending in “s, x, z, ch, or sh” to form their plurals.

  • class-classes; tax-taxes; buzz-buzzes; speech-speeches; wish-wishes

(c)We form plurals of nouns ending in “y,” before which there is a consonant, by changing “y” to “i” and adding “es.”

  • cry-cries; story-stories; country-countries

(d)We form plurals of nouns ending in “y,” before which a vowel is used, by adding an “s”.

  • day-days; key-keys; joy-joys

(e)We form plurals of a few nouns which end in “f” or “fe” by changing the “f” to “v” and adding “s” or “es.”

  • thief-thieves; leaf-leaves (but chief-chiefs)

(f)We form plurals of compound nouns by adding “s” or “es”

  • classroom-classrooms; showcase-showcases

(g)We form plurals of compound nouns, made up of nouns and modifiers (adjectives) by making the plural of the noun.

commander-in-chief——–commanders-in-chief; mother-in-law—–mothers-in-law; bar-at-law—–bars-as-law

(h)We form plurals of foreign nouns as we have them in foreign languages.

referendum (Latin)-referenda (American-referendums); basis (Latin)-bases; analysis (new Latin)-analyses; datum (Latin)-data

But note

formula (Latin)-formulae or formulas; memorandum (Latin)-memoranda or memorandums

Complete English Spelling and Pronunciation Rules