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13.23: The Suffixes -ance and -ence

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

1. The suffixes -ance and -ence are added to verbs and to bound stems to form nouns:

inherit (a verb) + ance = inheritance (a noun)

obedi (a bound base) + ence = obedience (a noun)

2. The suffixes -ance and -ence can create problems for spellers because although they have the same pronunciation, [əns], and the same meaning and function (forming nouns), they have different spellings. There are no simple and absolutely reliable rules for predicting when to use -ance and when to use -ence, but there are some patterns that can help you know when to use -ence.

If you can add [enshəl] (spelled <ential>) to the stem and get a recognizable word, the [əns] is -ence. For instance, if you can’t decide between <confidence> and <confidance>, and you replace the [əns] with [enshəl], the result is a word you should recognize: confidential. In any [əns] word that can take [enshəl] this way, you can be sure that the [əns] suffix is -ence.

In the middle column below add [enshəl], spelled <ential>, to the verb in the first column. Then in the right hand column add the correct spelling of [əns}:

Verb Verb + [enshəl] Verb + [əns]
confide confidential confidence
differ differential difference
exist existential existence
prefer preferential preference
refer referential reference
reside residential residence
revere reverential reverence

3. The table below is just like the preceding one except that rather than starting with a verb, you start with a bound stem:

Bound Stem Bound Stem + [enshəl] Bound Stem + [əns]
consequ consequential consequence
evid evidential evidence
experi experiential experience
influ influential influence
sent sentential sentence

4. Another helpful hint is looking at the stem to which the [əns] has been added. If it is a bound stem, you can be fairly certain that the [əns] is -ence. In the right column below add [əns] to the bound stem: 

Bound Stem Bound Stem + [əns]
influ influence
consci conscience
consequ consequence
evid evidence
experi experience
innoc innocence
intellig intelligence
obedi obedience
pati patience
sci science
sil silence
viol violence

Teaching Notes.

Item 3. The bound stem sent in sentence is not the same as nor even related to sent “past tense of send.” The sent in sentence comes from Latin and carries the root meaning “feel.” It occurs in sentient, sentiment, sentinel, assent, consent, dissent, resent .

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Date Created:
Oct 09, 2015
Last Modified:
Jun 02, 2016
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