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I am learning -ing spell rules from Woodward English. Can't figure out why is it correct to say 'eating'. Is the second rule not applicable here ?

2). If the verb ends in a consonant + vowel + consonant, we double the final consonant and add ING.

Infinitive  ING form
to stop     stopping
to sit      sitting
to plan     planning
to get      getting
to swim     swimming
  • The policeman is stopping the traffic.
  • We are planning a surprise party for our teacher.
  • I think I am getting a cold.
105

Because so-called long vowels (a, e, i, o, and u, when pronounced "like their letter name") and digraphs do not require a doubled consonant to form the participle.

Compare hating or waiting with batting, for example. Or plan and plane, which become, respectively, planning and planing.

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    Or baiting and batting. – Rob Jan 10 '17 at 22:31
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    My mom is an English teacher and I never knew this. Nicely answered. – Todd Wilcox Jan 11 '17 at 4:07
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    Also unstressed short vowels, such as editing. – Lee Daniel Crocker Jan 11 '17 at 17:12
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    @Mehrdad: No, it's not simple. For one thing, BrE spelling rules are different from AmE rules. And the case you're describing involves which syllable is stressed. But I'm not attempting to give rules for all verbs forever here. My answer addressed a more restricted case to which the OP's question was constrained: single-syllable verbs.. Had the OP asked a broader question, one that included cases such as you mention, I'd have given a more complicated answer. – Robusto Jan 15 '17 at 17:57
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    @Mehrdad: The rule given in this answer says "long vowels and diphthongs do not require a doubled consonant to form the participle"; it doesn't say "only verbs with long vowels and diphthongs do not require a doubled consonant to form the participle". Rather than "diphthongs", though, I would say "digraphs": it applies even for words like "spread" that have short vowels written with digraphs. – sumelic Jan 16 '17 at 16:47
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The English language has no universal rule for when to double a consonant before the suffix "-ing".

As evidence that there is no universal rule, consider the word "travel." It ends consonant-vowel-consonant, but both the forms "travelling" and "traveling" are widely used. Writers of US English usually write "traveling" (but sometimes write "travelling"), while other writers usually write "travelling" (but sometimes write "traveling").

In short, there are educated, literate, native English speakers using the spelling "traveling" as well as the spelling "travelling"; which spelling they use is correlated with (but not completely determined by) whether they are considered "American English" writers.

The word "happen" also ends consonant-vowel-consonant, but almost everybody writes "happening" rather than "happenning", "editing" rather than "editting", and "orbiting" rather than "orbitting".

The explanation I recall from grade school for why we double the final consonant of certain words when adding certain suffixes (such as "-ed" or "-ing") because to add the suffix without doubling the final consonant would cause the preceding vowel to change from a short vowel to a long vowel.

Compare the "silent E" rule that explains the difference in pronunciation between "cap" and "cape", between "kit" and "kite", or between "not" and "note", and observe what happens when a "silent E" word takes the suffix "-ing": the final "silent E" is deleted and "-ing" substituted in its place, for example, "to bite" becomes "biting".

In fact:

  • "siting" is a form of the verb "to site";
  • "planing" is a form of the verb "to plane;" and
  • "stoping" is a form of the verb "to stope".

I never knew "stope" was a word until I researched this question, but I was fairly sure that if it were a word, it would rhyme with "hope" (which it does), and that "stoping" would be pronounced differently from "stopping." That is how strong the "silent E" rule is in English.

The "silent E" rule and the rules for doubling the final consonant after a short vowel are weakened when the final syllable is not stressed. For example, "approximate" can rhyme with "mate" or be a near-rhyme with "mitt", depending on whether it is a verb or an adjective (at least in US English). Likewise, we have already seen the lack of a doubled consonant before "-ing" in "happening", "editing", and "orbiting". And of course even with stressed syllables there are pesky exceptions, such as "living" and "giving" (forms of the verbs "live" and "give", which also break the "silent E" rule).

  • This answer is useful and well-annotated, however, all of the exceptions you list are covered in the website the OP linked. – Wlerin Jan 10 '17 at 22:12
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    @Wlerin I wrote the answer based on the posted question, and noticed some time after posting that some of my additional examples coincided with examples on the web site. In particular, "travelling/traveling" has been one of my go-to examples of exceptional spelling for some time. The main reason I answered, however, is that the approach of matching patterns such as consonant-vowel-consonant seemed artificial to me; I have a different way of thinking of the orthography, which I've tried to convey. – David K Jan 11 '17 at 3:28
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    For completeness, the rule should also mention that: * final w and x never double ("anti-vaxxer" is a weirdly-spelt exception) * words ending in qu+vowel+consonant fall within the scope of the rule, as JoeMalpass pointed out in a comment to David's answer. – Rosie F Jan 11 '17 at 19:46
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The word eating "eat" is "vowel + vowel + consonant". It is not "consonant + vowel + consonant", therefore rule 2 does not apply.

Only the general rule of "just add -ING" applies.

to sleep => sleeping
to eat => eating
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    This makes sense by the rule presented above, though I would dispute whether it is an actual rule. – Wlerin Jan 9 '17 at 20:21
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    Actually on further consideration even the expected orthographic exceptions I can find (with two-letter short vowel sounds) obey the rule. e.g. heading – Wlerin Jan 9 '17 at 20:27
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    What about "squatting"? – CactusCake Jan 9 '17 at 22:11
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    or "acquitting"? – CactusCake Jan 9 '17 at 22:16
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    The u in qu does not count as a vowel in this case. – David Jan 9 '17 at 22:26
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The motivation for the spelling rule (which the Woodward English site does not specify) is that we don't want adding "-ing" to change the length of the final vowel (the one before the consonant). A single vowel before a single consonant at the end of a word is usually short, but a single vowel before a single consonant before another vowel is usually long. Thus, adding "-ing" to a word like "stop" without doubling the consonant would result in the spelling "stoping" (which is a different, and rare, word), and this would indicate that the vowel was long. Since this would violate the "no vowel length change" rule, we double the consonant ("stopping"), which indicates that the previous vowel should remain short.

Vowels that are already long don't need the spelling change. Even after adding "-ing" ("eating", "hating"), the vowels will remain long. As you may know, the fact that a vowel is long in a word such as "eat" or "hate" is often indicated by a silent vowel, either immediately after the first one (like the "a" in "eat") or separated from it by a single consonant (like the "e" in "hate").

Meanwhile, in words where there is a final "e", but the vowel is short anyway ("live", "have"), the shortness of the vowel is so programmed into an English speaker's head that adding "ing" without doubling the consonant ("living", "having") doesn't cause a net change in the way we pronounce the word. That's why rule (1) on the Woodward page says that if the verb ends with an "e", you drop it and don't double the consonant. The same principle applies to words such as "head", where there is a silent vowel following the spoken one, but the initial vowel is short. Thus, "heading" is also pronounced with a short "e".

3

The correct spelling is eating. This is because when a short vowel is followed by one consonant at the end of the root word, we double the last consonant. Thus, stop becomes stopping. In all other cases, when the vowel is long, we don't double the last consonant.

I personally wouldn't bother trying to learn all those spelling rules. The way I learned spelling is by writing a lot in English.

3

This rule works if you consider letters, not sounds. CVC should be letters and the correct addition is that the syllable should be stressed. Then the rule works almost in all cases. Travelling/traveling seems to be the only exception.Consider the following examples:

hop (CVstressedC)+p +ing, edit(e-dit)CV unstressed C)+ ing.

The aim of this process is not to change the pronunciation of the vowel.We can check it

hop-ping (not ho-ping)

Eat doesn't correspond to the CVC, so "eating" will be a correct form.

1

There is NO set of rules that will reliably tell you how to spell English words

English has a highly irregular system of spelling, which cannot be reduced to a set of rules that apply in all circumstances. The reasons for this are historical and complicated but the result is that all such systems of rules are doomed to fail. You may find some of these rules a useful aid (personally I think they do more harm than good) but you must recognise that they are a vague approximation to reality.

So the answer to your question is: the rule you've found is not a true reflection of English spelling.

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