Spelling the sound /air/: air, are or ear?

Rule Breakers - these words break spelling rules

and odd words


Many of the most used words in English have strange, irregular spellings.

These are known as the 'Key' words or 'High Frequency' words, for example:
could
where their some who any

Some language experts believe their odd spellings can be explained by the fact that these common words date back thousands of years, before there was any agreement on how words should be spelled. Very few people could read and write and they would please themselves about spelling (For further details see Unit 35 'Why is English spelling so hard?')

These 'high frequency' words have the /air/ sound:

where Where are you going?
there I'm going out there, where there's more fun to be had than in here.
their This spelling is used to show ownership, for example:
The adults sipped their drinks while the children opened their presents.
they're This spelling is short for 'they are', for example: I think they're coming tonight.

These words also use ere for the sound /air/. They are all French words which are now in common use in English:

ampere measurement of electric current
(from a French scientist of that name.)
compere person who introduces performers
(from the French word for 'godfather'.)
premiere first performance of play or film
(from the French word for 'first'.)

One more "odd word": heir (say /air/) - a person who inherits money, property or a title, as in "heir to the throne". Also: heiress, heirloom.

This completes the unit on air / are / ear

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Unit 12: Spelling the sound /air/: air, are or ear?

Page 8 of 8

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