How can I choose between "-se" and "-ce" for the spelling of the word ending pronounced /s/. For example, both "sense" and "science" have the ending pronounced /s/.

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    I would never try to get spelling from pronunciation in English, that way madness lies. – Justin Young Nov 14 '15 at 13:10
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    You simply learn it by rote (by heart) or use a spell checker. There is no rule that says one should be used or the other. The different spelling comes due to the differences in how (or from what other word) the words formed. – Victor Bazarov Nov 14 '15 at 13:11
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    ...not to mention the differences in spelling of some words in AmE and BrE (like "license" vs "licence"). – Victor Bazarov Nov 14 '15 at 13:12
  • And if you ask yourself why pronounciation and spelling are, hm, connected rather "loosely": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti – Stephie Nov 14 '15 at 13:34
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There's not very many patterns that would help in most cases. Small patterns exist but you are better off simply memorizing the spelling of common -ce and -se words.

For example - the c in -ace or -ice at the end of words is almost always pronounced /s/, whereas the s in -ase or -ise would be usually pronounced /z/. So use -ce in that situation.

There are far fewer words that end in -ense than -ence, and likewise less that end in -se with s pronounced /s/, rather than -ce. So if you have to hazard a guess, go with -ce.

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    I'm surprised you don't also mention the difference between American and British English. For example, one would use "defense" in AmE and "defence" in BrE. So depending on context, someone learning the language might see both spellings. Both are correct in their respective contexts and equally understood. – Nathan K Mar 18 '16 at 18:54
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    And, unfortunately, AmE is rather inconsistent with which letter it uses: defense and practice, for example. BrE more consistently uses -ce for noun forms and -se for verb forms; AmE only uses one spelling or the other unless the pronunciation is different: advise, advice, prophesy, prophecy. – BobRodes Jan 11 '18 at 4:32
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    English orthography is a mess. Use spell-checkers (but not auto-corrupt if you can avoid it). – Jeff Morrow Jan 11 '18 at 4:33
  • Is it true Americans use "defen-se" instead of "defen-ce"? N gram is showing certainly "defence" is decreasing in America...but when considering words such as defensible, defensibly, it looks like to me personally to use "defen-se" is more suitable.. – Kentaro Apr 6 '18 at 11:51
  • >There are far fewer words that end in -ense than -ence, Really? How about such as dense, pretense, tense...... – Kentaro Apr 6 '18 at 12:10

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