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12.7: Long < e > and the < i >-Before-< e > Rule

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Long <e> and the <l> Before <E> Rule

It's <i> before <e>, except after <c> Or when spelling [a¯], as in neighbor or weigh.

1. That little jingle is the best known bit of spelling wisdom around. And it can be very useful, because often <i> and <e> do come together in a word, and it can be hard to remember which comes first. The first line of the jingle is especially useful when you are spelling long <e>.

Notice that the first line describes two different cases so far as <i> and <e> are concerned:

According to the first half of the first line, which is usually the case, <ie> or <ei>? <ie>

According to the second half of the first line, which is usual, <cie> or <cei>? <cei>

2. It's easier to get things straight if you arrange the two cases in reverse order:

Case 1. If you're spelling long <e> right after the letter <c>, is it <ei> or <ie>? <ei>

Case 2. Otherwise it's <ie>.

3. Any words that fit either of those two cases are instances of the rule. Any words that do not fit into one of the three cases are holdouts. Among the following thirty words you should find twenty-two instances and eight holdouts. Underline the <ie> and <ei> spellings of [e¯]:


4. Sort the words into the following groups. Be ready to discuss your reasons for putting each word into the group into which you put it.

Instances of the Rule Holdouts to the Rule
Words with [e¯] spelled <ei> after <c> Words with [e¯] spelled <ie> elsewhere
receive grief calorie seize
ceiling relief believe weird
conceive hygiene field either
receipt niece priest protein
deceit yielding prairie leisure
perceives shriek movies financier
deceiving thief collie weir

5. The <ie> spelling of [e¯] is quite common where certain stems and suffixes come together: If a stem that ends in <y> has a suffix added to it that starts with <e>, when the <y> changes to <i>, the resulting <ie> often spells [e¯]: gallery + es = gallery + i + es = galleries, with [e¯] spelled <ie>. Combine the following stems and suffixes and in the words that you form, mark the letters that spell [e¯]:

Stem + Suffix = Analysis = Word
gallery + es = gallery + i + es = galleries
hurry + ed = hurry + i + ed = hurried
marry + ed = marry + i + ed = married
study + er = study + i + er = studier
vary + es = vary + i + es = varies
allergy + es = allergy + i + es = allergies
fallacy + es = fallacy+ i + es = fallacies

6. In either and neither the <ei> is sometimes pronounced [e¯] and sometimes [i¯]. Either pronunciation is correct. In the next lesson you'll see that the pronunciation with [i¯] fits the rule, though the pronunciation with [e¯] does not.

Teaching Notes. This and the next three lessons deal with the <i>-before-<e> rule. The students will add a detail or two to the old jingle, and although it may not rhyme so well when they are done, it will leak far fewer holdouts through.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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