The struggle with spelling that many people have is real. Inconsistency is the culprit. Here are eight — but not all — ways to spell the long /e/ sound in English.
1. In some cases, the long /e/ sound is spelled with just the letter e. Though usually more than one syllable long, exceptions include words like me, be we, he, and she. It is also used in the prefixes re-, be-, and de-.
2. Many words spell the long /e/ sound with the letters ee. The long /e/ sound can appear in the beginning, middle or end of the word.
3. Using the letters ea is a common way of spelling the long /e/ sound.
4. Sometimes the long /e/ sound is spelled with an e in the middle of the word and an e at the end of the word in a silent e or magic e form. These words are normally, but not always, more than one syllable long.
5. In the case of ie words, the well known ‘i before e except after c‘ spelling rule can apply to long /e/ sounds.
6. As the ‘i before e‘ spelling rule doesn’t apply after the letter c, long /e/ sounds are sometimes spelled with ei.
7. You’re probably familiar with these proper names that are spelled with the digraph ae and have a long /e/ pronunciation:
Here are some long /e/ words that have ae variant spellings:
8. And finally, here are two words using eo to represent an explicit long /e/ sound:
Whew! This covers the eight spelling variants in the sentence at the top of this post. I haven’t touched on long /e/ sounds that use y and i, such as happy or niche. We’ll save those for another Fun Facts About English.
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