Web lists-archives.com

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

On 2017-12-08 13:44, The Real Bev wrote:
On 12/07/2017 05:36 PM, 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. :-)


I assume from your name that you are not a native English speaker, which means you actually had to learn the rules.  I didn't (just picked them up subliminally, I guess -- I did a lot of reading as a kid) until I took French in high school.  "Oh, THAT's what a direct object is!" etc.

I'm natively bi-lingual. My father was Austrian, my mother was English. I grew up speaking both languages from the age of 5.

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