Exceptions to Exceptions

Rules are meant to be broken, and in the English language, they are broken all the time.

After the difficult “Numbers and Hyphenation” post last time, I thought I would go easy on you and only talk about one rule (and of course, its exceptions).

You’ve all heard this rule since elementary school:

“i” before “e,” except after “c,” and when it says “ay” as in  “neighbor” and “weigh.”

Usually, it is “i” before “e” when you have a long “e” sound, such as in these words: achieve, believe, brief, chief, diesel, field, grief, hygiene, niece, piece, relieve, reprieve, shield, shriek, siege, thief, wield, yield.

But after “c,” the “e” comes first, as in:

ceiling, conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, perceive, receipt, receive.

Having said that, here are some words that don’t follow the “i” before “e” rule, and there is no “c” to change the rule. What do you think about words like these, where “i” does NOT come before “e” and it still has a long “e” sound:

caffeine, Keith, Neil, protein, seize, Sheila, weir, weird.

 

When the sound is “ay,” the spelling is also “ei”:

beige, deign, eight, freight, neighbor, reign, rein, veil, vein, weigh.

And finally, even the exception to the “i” before “e” rule where it says “except after ‘c’,” has an exception of its own. 

Here is “species.”  The “ie” makes a long “e” sound, and follows “c” but it is not spelled “ei”  (as in “ceiling”).

What a CRAZY language!

 

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12 thoughts on “Exceptions to Exceptions

  1. I remember when I took Russian in college, my professor said Russian has 29 letters and endless rules, but is ultimately easier than English because Russian follows its rules. He was right! I’d hate to learn Engluts from scratch.

    Like

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