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Unit 21: Spelling the ie and ei words 'i before e except after c'
Page 6 of 9

Unit 21: The i before e rule – does it work?

Unit Startpage 1Course Testpage 3Course Testpage 5page 6Course Testpage 8page 9Unit End

Page 6 of 9

Spelling ie and ei words: rule breakers

Rule breakers break spelling rules
Think back - help with spelling rules Unit 9 covered the rules for adding suffixes to words ending in y, e.g.

1) When adding a suffix to a word ending y, we usually change the y to i:

cry + ed = cried copy + er = copier crazy + est = craziest
beauty + ful = beautiful silly + ness = silliness

2) If the suffix is s, we must change the y to i and then add es:

cry + s = cries copy + s = copies party + s = parties

If the root word ends in -cy, adding a suffix may give you -cies.
Some examples:

agency + s agencies
emergency + s emergencies
vacancy + s vacancies
fancy + ed fancied
fancy + er fancier

The " i before e, except after c " rule does not apply if the ie is
part of a suffix.

In a few words the long /ē/ sound is spelled ei even though there is no c:
protein Protein is found in meat, fish and cheese.
seize* A thief seized my mother's purse.
weir* A weir is a dam or a man-made waterfall.
weird I heard a very weird noise in the night.
Some proper nouns (names of people or places) use ei to spell
the long /ē/ sound:
Keith Neil Sheila Leigh Leith

A mixture of odd ei words:
foreign We love foreign travel.
sovereign A reigning king or queen is a sovereign.
forfeit To forfeit means to give up.
counterfeit Counterfeit bank notes have been forged.
eiderdown The quilt is filled with feathers from the eider duck.
height The height of the Eiffel Tower is 300m.
either You can have either of these two cakes.
neither Neither of these dresses fits me.
heir* / heiress The heir to his fortune will be very rich.
leisure In my leisure time I enjoy swimming.

In these cie words, ci makes the sound /sh/ :
ancient Greece has many ancient ruins.
efficient An efficient machine works well.
proficient A proficient person does his job well.
sufficient Have you sufficient money for a cab home?
conscience My conscience is completely clear.
For more on ci saying /sh/, please see Unit 30.

Learn the Words:
Study this word list 'Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check' spelling exercise English spelling games spelling test

Look again at the rule:

Spelling rule, i before e except after c
Learning Tip for English spelling Given the number of words that don’t follow the basic i before e except after c rule, the best thing you can do is to use Spellzone to learn the words that contain ei or ie!

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A final check on ie and ei words.

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