Spelling: I/E Words

There are a number of spelling rules in the English language that one has to learn in order to master the language  This article will look specifically at the spelling rules for words that have the ‘i’ and ‘e’ letter combination, or what is sometimes called the ‘i before e rule’.  It is a helpful tool that will help you spell many words.

THE I/E RULE

The rule states that if a word has an ‘i’ and ‘e’ next to each other, the ‘i’ tends to come first.

Example 1

  • ‘The dog was fierce.’

The word ‘fierce’ has the ‘i’ and ‘e’ letter combination. As you can see from the example above, the ‘i’ comes before the ‘e’.

Example 2

Spelling: I/E Words - Simply Better English
Spelling: I/E Words – Simply Better English
  • ‘The view from the hotel window was spectacular.’

As you can see, the ‘e’ in the word ‘view’ is positioned after the ‘i’.

Example 3

  • ‘The children, on the school trip, ran through the field.’

The word ‘field’ follows the i/e rule too.

LIST OF I/E WORDS

Here is a list of some words that follow the ‘i before e rule’.

  • believe
  • chief
  • earlier
  • friend
  • handkerchief
  • niece
  • patient
  • quiet
  • thief
  • view
Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 1

All of the words below are from the list above but the letters are not in the right order. Unscramble the words.

  • areelir
  • fhite
  • iechf
  • firden

The C/I/E Rule

There are many words that follow the i/e rule but it doesn’t stop there. There is a second part to this rule too. If a word has a letter ‘c’ and is then followed by the letter combination ‘i’ and ‘e‘, the letters often swap around.  This is sometimes called the ‘i before e except after c’ rule.

Example 4

  • ‘The shopkeeper gave the child a receipt.’

When spelling the word ‘receipt’, we need to remember the ‘c’ means we should place the letter ‘e’ before the ‘i’.

Example 5

Spelling: I/E Words - Simply Better English
Spelling: I/E Words – Simply Better English
  • ‘The decorator painted the ceiling red.’

The word ‘ceiling’ follows the c/e/i rule too.

LIST OF C/E/I WORDS

Here is a list of some words that follow the ‘i before e rule except after c’ rule.

  • receive
  • deceive
  • conceive
  • perceive
  • deceitful
Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 2

The sentences below have a word missing. Place the correct c/e/i word in the sentence.

  • The puppy wanted to … praise from his owner.
  • The … was round.
  • The thief wanted to … the police officer.

EXCEPTIONS

Many words in the English language follow the i/e and c/e/i rules. Here are some examples of words that do not fit into any of these groups.

Example 6

  • ‘Stephan had eight cats.’

The word ‘eight’ has the letter ‘e’ and ‘i’ but it does not follow the i/e or c/e/i rule.

Example 7

  • ‘Winnie had to finish her science homework.’

The word ‘science’ has a letter ‘c’ but it does not follow the c/e/i rule.

EXCEPTIONS

Here is a list of some more words that do not follow the spelling rules in this article.

  • leisure
  • neighbour
  • neither
  • policies
  • society
  • weigh

RECAP

This article looked at the spelling rules for words that have the letter combination ‘i’ and ‘e’. Although every word does not follow the i/e and c/e/i rule they are still a good tool for spelling many English words. For more on spelling rules see Prefixes in the English Language.

Here are the answers to the activities in the article. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section below.

Activity 1

  • earlier
  • thief
  • chief
  • friend

Activity 2

  • ‘The puppy wanted to receive praise from his owner.’
  • ‘The ceiling was round.’
  • ‘The thief wanted to deceive the police officer.’

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