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Re: English: no rule for making "ing" verbs?

On 2017-12-07 18:33, Balaco wrote:
In English, is there a rule for knowing when we need or not to duplicate the last letter of a verb, when writing it in the present participle?

Begin => beginning
Know => knowing

Every now and then I miss them. And the rule for this, that I learned in school, is: "if the last letter is consonant, duplicate it". But I found many exceptions for that, so I basically know this rule as something that does not work. When I need it to be correct and have some doubt, I use a dictionary - but that is a pain to do, if for everything I write, and also sometimes unfeasible.

It's about long and short vowels, which in English are taught in terms of letter names instead of sounds. Basically, if the last syllable has a short vowel (as in pat, pet, pit, pot, put, putt), you must double the consonant letter to signal a short vowel when adding a syllable: begin-beginning-beginner, tap-tapping-tapper, pet-petting-petter, spot-spotting-spotter, gun-gunning-gunner, etc.

If the vowel is long (which in most English dialects means it's a diphthong, and/or r-coloured), you must not double the consonant (Bart, bait, beat, boat, boot, bite, Bert, bork). Thus dine-dining, not dinning. NB that dinner has the short /i/ (as in bit) vowel, hence the double consonant. I sometimes see that people have a dinning room in their homes, I guess they make a lot of noise while dining. :-)

The above will help if your native language uses the standard Latin vowel values.

If you want to know why English spelling is such a mess, the short answer is that England adopted printing, and hence standardised spelling, before the transition from Late Middle English to Early Modern English was complete. Thus many spellings record English both as spoken ca 1450-1550 and from ca 1550 on: wind/wind, bow/bow, etc. Or gait/gate, neither of which was pronounced as they are now.

Spelling didn't become standardised until ca 1700, but some sounds shifted some more: tea once rimed with Tay. Also, around that time, some spellings were deliberately changed to reflect the etymology of the word: Debt was earlier spelled dette, for example.

And then there are the national quirks, such as the -ise/-ize or -or/-our differences between UK and US spelling.

I know this doesn't help as much as you and I would like. :-)

Wolf K
"The next conference for the time travel design team will be held two weeks ago."
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