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7.17: Silent Final < e > as an Insulator

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Silent Final <e> as an Insulator

1. A final <e> marks a preceding vowel as being long in the patterns VCe and Ve#; it marks a <c> or <g> right in front of it as being soft; it marks a <th> right in front of it as being voiced.

Besides these functions, silent final <e> is used to keep certain letters from coming at the end of a word. When a final <e> does this, it is insulating the letter.

2. <u> and <v>. In English we avoid ending words with the letters <u> or <v>. Many words have a silent final <e> simply to keep them from ending with a <u> or <v>. Here are some words in which silent final <e> is simply insulating a <u> or a <v>:


Sort the words into these two groups:

Words that end...
<ve> <ue>
achieve expensive morgue tongue
reserve dissolve technique mosque
nerve love league

3. <s> and <z>. Just as we avoid ending words with <u> or <v>, we also avoid ending free bases with a single <s>. The letter <s> is so common as a suffix that if we were to end free bases with it, the free base would look like a plural noun or like a verb with the -s suffix. For instance, without a silent final <e> dense would look like dens, the plural of den. And without its silent final <e>, moose would look like the verb moos, as in “That cow moos all day long.” So we avoid ending free bases with a single <s>, and we sometimes do so by insulating the <s> with a silent final <e>, as in dense and moose.

The letters <s> and <z> are very closely related to one another. In fact, the sound [z] is spelled <s> more often than it is spelled <z>. So just as we avoid ending free bases with <s>, we avoid ending them with a single <z>. We sometimes use a final <e> to insulate a single <z>. For example, all the final <e> is doing in the word bronze is insulating the <z> so that it does not come at the end.

4. Divide the following words into the four groups:


Words that end ...
<se> <ze> <ve> <ue>
worse squeeze nerve league
glimpse bronze starve tongue
clause sneeze reserve mosque
mouse gauze dissolve technique
purchase adjective
clubhouse expensive

5. So final <e> can insulate four different letters to keep them from the end of a free base or word. The four letters are <u>, <v>, <s>, and <z>.

6. The Functions of Silent Final <e>. In the patterns VCV and Ve# silent final <e> marks a preceding vowel as being long; it marks a preceding <c> or <g> as being soft, and it marks a preceding <th> as being voiced; final <e> is also used to insulate <u>, <v>, <s>, and <z>.

Word Bowl. Again, your job is to spell words from the letters on the pins. Rember that you can spell more than two words but you can use each of the ten letters only one time. If you can spell one ten-letter word using all the letters on the pins, you have scored a strike, which gives you a total of twenty points, the highest possible score. If you can spell two words that use up all ten letters, you have scored a spare, which gives you a total of fifteen. If you don't get a strike or spare, you get one point for each letter of the word or words you spell, up to nine points.

Words Points
Strike: purchasing (20points)
Spare: See below (15points)
Other word or words: (Up to 9points)

Teaching Notes.

Item 2. The historical reason for the constraint against ending words with <u> or <v> is not clear. But it is logical for the reason, whatever it may be, to apply to both <u> and <v> because until the 17th century the two letters were used as different forms of one letter that was used to spell both the consonant sound [v] and the various <u> vowel sounds. In general, <v> was used at the beginning of words, <u> in the middle and at the end, whether the sound being spelled was vowel or consonant. In older dictionaries words starting with <u> and <v> were alphabetized as a single group. So it is logical that what we now see as two separate letters would have certain similarities of behavior.

Word Bowl. Some spare combinations:

sprucing + ah, ha

scraping + uh

parching + us

crushing + pa

chagrins, crashing + up

urchins + gap

spinach + rug

garnish, sharing + cup

phasing, shaping + cur

rushing + cap, pac

gunship, pushing + arc, car

graphic + sun

cursing + hap

arching, chagrin + pus, sup, ups,

carping + uhs

urping + cash

urchins + gaps

punish, unship + crag

unrigs + chap

sprain + chug

raunch + gips, pigs

arcing, caring, racing + push

paunch + rigs

paring + such

pacing + rush

curing + haps

aching + spur, urps

ruing, unrig + chaps

unhip + crags

suing + parch

sugar + pinch

shrug + panic

harps, sharp + cuing

crush + aping

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