In other languages, sometimes there are rules which tells you how to write a word. For example, in Spanish, you can never write a word with "nb" together, if a word sounds like it, then it's spelled with "nv". (For example, it's written invierno and not inbierno, both words sound the same, but there is only one way to write them rightly)

In English I have the problem of remember which words are written which 2 equal consonants together. Those words usually have a spanish alike equivalent, which is written with only one consonant, which leads me to have several times written mistakes. Therefore I would like to know,

Is there any grammatical rule which tells you when an english word has to be written with 2 equal consonants together?


2 Answers 2


I think you are talking about double letters such as 'tt' or 'll'.

As with most things in English, there are some patterns which can help, but there are no universal rules.

For example:

  • in the combination 'VCV (stressed vowel - single consonsant - vowel) the first vowel tends to be "long" (actually, tense, or a diphthong). Examples: bated /bɛɪtɪd/ 'coping' /kəʊpɪŋ/. But in 'VCCV (the same with a double consonant) the first vowel is usually "short" (lax) 'batted' /bætɪd/; 'copping' /kɒpɪŋ/. [Phonemic versions in my British accent]

  • Where a word comes from a Latin root with a prefix such as 'ad' or 'com', the consonant of the prefix is often assimilated to the following sound, and is then written with a double letter: eg 'ad-sisto' > 'assist'; 'con-muto' > 'commute'.

But there are lots of exceptions to patterns like this.


No - I don't believe there is an equivalent rule in English that dictates the spelling of the word based on the pronunciation.

There is the plural rule, that if a singular word ends in 'y', the plural ends in 'ies' (for example baby, babies). I suppose that is a case of the spelling being dictated by the pronunciation, but in English generally - and I would have thought most languages - the spelling influences the pronunciation, not the other way around, and even then there are many exceptions in pronunciation.

Most other rules I can think of determine the pronunciation from the spelling - such as silent letters (eg. a word ending in 'b' after an 'm' is not usually pronounced, as in thumb or numb).

In fact, although I don't speak Spanish, I'm not even sure you're correct in what you say. Most languages do not spell phonetically. "Invierno" may well be pronounced "inbierno" in your language, but surely that is a rule of pronunciation rather than a rule about never writing "nb"?

  • This is the rule I was talking about, I dont know if I explained it right. " This is partially reflected in the orthography: only ⟨m⟩ is written before ⟨b⟩ and ⟨p⟩; but only ⟨n⟩ is written before ⟨v⟩ (although the combination nv represents the same sounds as mb)" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_orthography
    – Pablo
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:55

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