There are many words in English that end with a silent e, and sometimes when teaching children to read, parents might scratch their heads and wonder how to explain why an ending is a silent one.
There are 5 main spelling rules to be aware of, and knowing these will help you explain most situations.
The 5 spelling rules for ending silent e:
Rule 1: The silent e is used to make the preceding vowel long to sound lie its own name. I think most will know this rule, or have come across it at one time or another. Here are some examples.
FIN vs. FINE – without the silent e, the i in fin is short, and with the ending in silent e, the I becomes long to sound like its name.
- FAT vs. FATE
- BIT vs. BITE
- NOT vs. NOTE
Rule 2: Silent e makes c soft to make the /s/ sound. It also makes g soft to make the /j/ sound, but only sometimes! This is related to the first rule in some ways. here, I teach the “silent e” as the “bossy e” because in many words, it performs two functions at the same time. (It’s telling other letters how to sound, and that’s why we call it “bossy”.) Here are some examples.
- ACE, ICE, SPICE, AGE, PAGE, STAGE
Looking at these words, you’ll see that the ending silent is performing two functions:
- ) It makes the preceding vowel long to sound like its name.
- ) It makes the c and g soft to sound like /s/ and /j/.
These two concepts are taught in our MAGNIFICENT KIDS READING PROGRAM.
Rule 3: English words do not en in U or V. The ending silent e in these words do not play a part in altering the pronunciation of the word itself. It’s only there so that the words do not end in U or V.
- HAVE, OLIVE, SOLVE, STARVE, GLUE, BLUE, TRUE, ARGUE
Rule 4: You won’t see this rule mentioned much, but the ending silent e is also used to distinguish certain words from the plural forms of the words. That sounds a little confusing, so let me show you what I mean. Let’s look at PLEAS and PLEASE. What’s the difference between these two words? Let’s first define them, using an online dictionary:
- PLEA (plural form PLEAS ) – a request made in an urgent and emotional manner.
PLEASE – used in polite requests or questions.
PLEASE is the plural form of PLEA. By adding an ending silent e, you completely change the word and its meaning to PLEASE. Here are a few more examples:
- MOO, MOOS, MOOSE
- PAR, PARS, PARSE
- LAP, LAPS, LAPSE
- TEA, TEAS, TEASE
- BROW, BROWS, BROWSE
- TEN, TENS, TENSE
- CORP, CORPS, CORPSE
In the above examples, the first two words in each row are the singular and plural forms of the same word, while the third word is a completely different word distinguished by the silent e ending.
Rule 5: Every syllable must have a vowel. Here are some examples of this rule:
- STAPLE – 2 syllables: STA/PLE
- SYLLABLE – 3 syllables: SYL/LA/BLE
- PROBABLE – 3 syllables: PROB/A/BLE
Because of rule 5, these words are spelt as STAPLE, SYLLABLE PROBABLE and not as STAPL, SYLLABLE, PROBABL.
So there you have it, the five spelling rules for the ending silent e.