English grammar

Module 3, Verbs: Types, Tenses, and Moods, Lesson 6:

Principal Parts: Spelling Changes

English grammar

Spelling Changes with the Four Principal Parts

When adding an ending to a verb, you sometimes have to change the spelling.

Do change the spelling in the following situations:

Base Verb Spelling Spelling Change

Single syllable1 verb ending in a consonant2

Double the consonant when adding an -ing or -ed ending.

shop + -ing = shopping
shop + -ed = shopped

Ends in a single vowel plus a consonant and carries the stress3 on the last syllable

Double the consonant when adding an -ing or -ed ending.

refer + -ing = referring
refer + -ed = referred

Ends in a consonant + y

Change y to ie when adding -s.

clarify + -s = clarifies

Change y to i when adding -ed.

clarify + -ed = clarified

Ends in a silent -e

Drop the silent -e before adding -ing.

amaze + -ing = amazing

Just add a -d instead of -ed.

amaze + -ed = amazed

Ends in a -c

Add a k before an -ing or -ed ending.

frolic + -ing = frolicking
frolic + -ed = frolicked

Don't change the spelling in these situations:

Base Verb Spelling Spelling

Most base forms, except those ending in consonant + y

Most of the time, spelling changes are not necessary when adding the -s ending to the base form of the verb (i.e. in the third person singular form of the present tense). This is true even for verbs that do require a spelling change for the -ing or -ed ending.

shop + -s = shops (vs. shopping and shopped)
refer + -s = refers (vs. referring and referred)
amaze + -s = amazes (vs. amazing)
frolic + -s = frolics (vs. frolicking and frolicked)

Verbs ending in a consonant + y, which you already learned about in the above table, are the only exception.

Ends in a consonant + y

Don't make any spelling changes when adding the -ing ending.

clarify + -ing = clarifying (vs. clarifies and clarified)

Ends with a single vowel before a consonant, but the stress is not on the last syllable

Don't double the consonant. An example is the verb wander, which has the stress on the a, not the e. (Contrast wander with the verb refer in the previous table.)

wander + -s = wanders
wander + -ing = wandering
wander + -ed = wandered

Ends with a double vowel before a consonant

Do not double the consonant. (Contrast the verbs cheat and retreat with shop and refer in the previous table.)

cheat + -s = cheats
cheat + -ing = cheating
cheat + -ed = cheated

retreat + -s = retreats
retreat + -ing = retreating
retreat + -ed = retreated

Ends in a vowel + y

Don't change y to ie. (Contrast enjoy with the verb clarify in the previous table.)

enjoy + -s = enjoys
enjoy + -ing = enjoying
enjoy + -ed = enjoyed

Ends in a vowel + l

In American English, do not double the l even though l is a consonant.

travel + -s = travels
travel + -ing = traveling
travel + -ed = traveled

Note: In British English, you do double the l before the -ing and -ed endings (travelling, travelled).

  1. When we pronounce words aloud, we break them up into smaller sound units called syllables. For example, the word syl*la*ble itself can be broken up into three syllables. There are also many single syllable words, such as shop and book.
  2. Any letter of the alphabet that is not a, e, i, o, or u is considered a consonant.
  3. When we say words aloud, we pronounce certain syllables more loudly than others. The syllable that is pronounced the loudest is the stressed syllable. (Emphasis is another word that is commonly used for stress.)

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar
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Click the correct spelling of the verb in parentheses.
We were (shopping)/(shoping) at the mall all Saturday afternoon.
They (cancelled)/(canceled) their hotel reservation at the last minute and were charged a fee.
Stacy's grandmother (relies)/(relys) on caregivers for help with everyday tasks.
My newborn baby sister was (crying)/(crieing) all night long.
The suspect has already (confered)/(conferred) with his lawyer.
His father's company (emplois)/(employs) fifty people.
Ursula (panicked)/(paniced) when a car ran a red light and almost hit her.
We (bakd)/(baked) ten dozen cookies during the holidays.
The Tour de France participants will be (riding)/(rideing) for a total of 3,500 kilometers.
The beaten and battered troops finally (surrendered)/(surrenderred) to the enemy.