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




On 7 Dec 2017 at 20:36, Wolf K wrote:

> 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

An additional point regarding differences between UK and USA spellings which is 
specific to the question asked - the rule about whether or not to double the 
final consonant sometimes differs between the two. As I understand it, in USA 
"travel" becomes "traveling" (someone please correct me if I am wrong), whereas 
in UK it is "travelling". I think there are a few other similar variations.

I think there is actually one rule without exceptions (at least I can't think 
of any). If the last letter is "w", then it is never doubled. (gnawing, jawing, 
blowing, snowing, etc.). Rather a limited rule, but perhaps better than 
nothing.

Jim Fisher


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