There is a so-called magic e in fourth place should force the e at 2 place to sound its name. But this rule does not apply to ‘seven’. Why?

  • 3
    Please quote the rule and any examples which follow this rule. I have never heard of the "magic" e, but I think I know what you're referring to. Bear also in mind that in English "spelling" and "pronunciation" rules are very loose.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:25
  • @Mari-Lou: OP means the second e in, say, mete, which indicates that the first e is pronounced long, as as in meet rather than short as in met. I don't think the second e in meet counts as a "magic" one. Thus you might expect seven to be spelled sevven to be completely unambiguous. But as you say, to the extent there are rules in English spelling, they're very loose. Oct 26, 2015 at 17:30
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA you've just borked the "magic e" rule. There mustn't be two adjacent consonants between the e's, so your example doesn't work :)
    – A.P.
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:31
  • 1
    It's more often called the silent e - which is not pronounced itself, but it often affects the sound of the preceding vowel (or sometimes consonant). Oct 26, 2015 at 17:38
  • 4
    This is another Teacher's t Test™ rules; these are approximations or assumptions passed down over academic generations from teacher to child who grows up to become a teacher, etc. They are all home-made, and they all leak -- sometimes badly -- because they're based on the fallacious presupposition that English spelling is sposta represent English pronunciation. In fact, it hasn't done so for at least 500 years. As witness the contrast of English spelling with actual English phonemes. Oct 26, 2015 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


This "rule" has so many exceptions that it's really not a rule at all. Many probably are based on what language the word originated from, but that is so varied, it's almost impossible to try to learn which words came from where and how to pronounce them based on that. So, it comes down to the standard answer for just about every "why" question when it comes to English: "Because it's English"

Some exceptions:

  • River
  • Riven
  • Sever
  • Lever
  • Seven
  • Eleven
  • Several
  • Clever
  • Never
  • Ever
  • Honey
  • Money
  • 1
    Although, only one of the pronunciations of "lever" is an exception.
    – sumelic
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:10

The rule applies to words with the following pattern at the end of the word:

{zero or more letters}<vowel><consonant>e

and to words trivially derived from such words. For example:

"derive" ends with "ive", so it follows the pattern, and
"derived" = "derive" - "e" + "ed", and
"deriver" = "derive" - "e" + "er", so they obey the same rule

Notice that this rule usually involves a "silent e".

There is no word "seve". "Seven" is not derived from "seve". And the second "e" in seven is pronounced. Thus, the rule does not apply to "seven".


I assume you're referring to the rule that says if you have an e, then a consonant (optional), then another e, the second e makes the first one "say its name" (i.e. the first e must be tense.)

Examples: Peter, meet, seek. But this doesn't work with seven or eleven, for example.

The reason the rule doesn't apply is because the word seven is a rule-breaker. You could say it's an exception to the rule. Or the rule is not absolute. It's a loose rule. This is English.

  • @Mari-LouA See my updated answer.
    – A.P.
    Oct 26, 2015 at 17:45
  • I believe that lever is a "rule-breaker" in American English (though not in British). But ever, clever, sever, several, and leveret ('a young hare') are in all varieties as far as I know. So are haversine, haversack, and hover (and, arguably, words like cover, though they have yet another vowel sound). The thing about rule-breakers is that they, y'know, break the rules.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 26, 2015 at 19:13
  • 4
    And, as long as you agree to call them "exceptions" instead of "counterexamples", nobody ever notices when they're more common than the instances of the rule. And therefore nobody ever notices when the rule is wrong. Oct 26, 2015 at 21:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .