Adding Suffixes after Silent E  

When E appears at the end of a word, it is usually rendered silent. This silent E often determines the pronunciation of vowels, as well as the consonants C and G.

When do you drop the silent E?

When a vowel suffix attaches to a word with a silent final E, it generally results in E being omitted or replaced. When it is followed by a consonant suffix, on the other hand, E usually remains in place within the word. However, there are quite a few exceptions to both of these conventions, as we’ll see.

Dropping silent E with vowel suffixes

When a vowel suffix is attached to a word with a silent E, it often (though not always) results in E being omitted—the vowel of the suffix is able to take over the duties of E so that the pronunciation of the root word does not change. In the case of suffixes beginning with E, they simply replace the silent E.
For example:
Root Word
Correctly Suffixed Words
Incorrectly Suffixed Words
argue
argued, arguer, arguing
argueed, argueer, argueing
bake
baked, baker, baking
bakeed, bakeer, bakeing
communicate
communicated, communicating, communication
communicateed, communicateer, communicateing
dispose
disposable, disposal, disposing
disposeable, disposeal, disposeing
excite
excitable, excited, exciting
exciteable, exciteed, exciteing
fame
famed, famous
fameed, fameous
give
giver, giving
giveer, giveing
ice
iced, icing, icy
iceed, iceing, icey
manage
managed, manager, managing
manageed, manageer, manageing
tile
tiled, tiler, tiling
tileed, tileer, tileing
store
storage, stored, storing
storeage, storeed, storeing
use
usage, used, user, using
useage, useed, useer, useing
Although the convention of omitting silent E before a vowel suffix is the most common approach, there are notable exceptions to the silent E rule.

Exception 1: Keeping silent E before “-able”

There are many instances in which we do not omit a silent E when adding the vowel suffix “-able.” This is especially true when it comes after C or G (to make it clear that the consonants retain their “soft” pronunciations). For example:
With “-able”
With other vowel suffixes
C + Silent E
dance→danceable
efface→effaceable
notice→noticeable
replace→replaceable
trace→traceable
danced, dancer, dancing
effaced, effacing
noticed, noticing
replaced, replacing
traced, tracer, tracing
G + Silent E
age→ageable
bridge→bridgeable
change→changeable
discourage→discourageable
manage→manageable
aged, aging*
bridged, bridging
changed, changer, changing
discouraged, discouraging
managed, manager, managing
(*In British English, the silent E is usually kept in the word ageing, whereas it is usually omitted in American English.)
While most common when coming after C/G + E, this convention of keeping E before “-able” does occur after other consonants as well. However, this is quite rare and, in many cases, is simply an alternative spelling (especially in American English, in which E is much more likely to be omitted).
Here are some examples in which you might see “-able” following a silent E:
  • file→fileable (but not filable)
  • fine→fineable (more commonly, finable)
  • like→likeable (more commonly, likable)
  • live→liveable (more commonly, livable)
  • love→loveable (more commonly, lovable)
  • name→nameable (less commonly, namable)
  • shape→shapeable (more commonly, shapable)
  • size→sizeable (more commonly, sizable)
  • trade→tradeable (more commonly, tradable)

Exception 2: Keeping silent E before “-ous”

The suffix “-ous” creates a few exceptions to the silent E rule, though these only occur in words in which silent E follows the consonant G. For example:
  • advantage→advantageous
  • courage→courageous
  • outrage→outrageous
(There are other words ending in “-eous,” such as courteous, gorgeous, or righteous. However, in these words the E is not a remnant of the root + “-ous”; instead, such words’ spellings are due to their evolution from other languages, such as Latin, French, or Old English.)

Exception 3: Words ending in “-ee,” “-oe,” and “-ye”

The silent E that appears in words with these three endings is functionally important, making their meanings and pronunciations clear to the reader. Because of this, silent E is not omitted when followed by the verb suffixes “-ing,” “-able,” or (in one instance) “-ist.” For example:
Words ending in “-ee”
Words ending in “-oe”
Words ending in “-ye”
agree→agreeable, agreeing
decree→decreeing
foresee→foreseeable, foreseeing
free→freeable, freeing
guarantee→guaranteeing
see→seeable, seeing
canoe→canoeable, canoeing, canoeist
hoe→hoeing
snowshoe→snowshoeing
dye→dyeable, dyeing
eye→eyeable, eyeing
However, when we add suffixes that do begin with E to these endings, we must drop the silent E—we never have a word with three Es in a row. Let’s look at the same words again, this time adding E suffixes:
Words ending in “-ee”
Words ending in “-oe”
Words ending in “-ye”
agree→agreed
decree→decreed, decreer
foresee→foreseen, foreseer
free→freed, freer, freest
guarantee→guaranteed
see→seen, seer
canoe→canoed
hoe→hoed, hoer
snowshoe→snowshoed, snowshoer
dye→dyed, dyer
eye→eyed, eyer

Exception 4: The odd case of “-y”

When the vowel suffix “-y” is attached to a word ending in silent E to form an adjective, it sometimes replaces the E, but other times it does not. Like some of the examples we looked at with “-able,” these are occasionally just variant (but acceptable) spellings of the same word. In some instances, only one form is correct.
Unfortunately, there is no predictable pattern to know when to omit or keep the silent E when adding the suffix “-y,” so we just have to learn which is the correct (or more common) spelling. If you’re not sure, check a good dictionary.
Let’s look at some common examples:
E is usually omitted
E is usually kept
E is always omitted
E is always kept
flake→flaky
(variant spelling: flakey)
lace→lacy
(variant spelling: lacey)
rope→ropy
(variant spelling: ropey)
home→homey
(variant spelling: homy)
price→pricey
(variant spelling: pricy)
ice→icy
(not icey)
scare→scary
(not scarey)
spice→spicy
(not spicey)
hoke→hokey
(not: hoky)
dice→dicey
(not dicy)

Exception 5: Words ending in “-er”

This is more of an extension of the silent E rule than an exception to it, but it is a peculiar enough usage that it’s worth highlighting.
In some words that end in “-er,” E is also omitted when certain vowel suffixes are attached, even though E is neither silent nor at the end. This has to do with the origins of the words: originally, the ending was “-re,” which can still be seen in the British English spellings, as in calibre, centre, fibre, spectre, or theatre. Even though they are spelled with “-er” in American English, we still treat them the same way with certain vowel suffixes, as in:
  • caliber→calibrate
  • center→central
  • fiber→fibrous
  • specter→spectral
  • theater→theatrical
However, when we conjugate the verb center with “-ed” (centered) and “-ing” (centering), we do not omit E in American English.

Keeping silent E with consonant suffixes

When a word ending in a silent E is attached to a consonant suffix, we nearly always keep the E in the word. While other vowels are usually able to do the job of silent E in dictating the word’s pronunciation and meaning, consonants cannot; therefore, we have to leave the E in place so the reader is not confused while reading.
For example:
Root Word
Correctly Suffixed Words
Incorrectly Suffixed Words
bare
barely, bareness, bares
barly, barness, bars
care
careful, careless, cares
carful, carless, cars
complete
completely, completeness, completes
completly, completness, complets
home
homeless, homely, homeward
homless, homly, homward
like
likely, likeness, likewise
likly, likness, likwise
peace
peaceful, peaceless
peacful, peacless
state
statehood, stateless, stately
stathood, statless, statly
wake
wakeful, wakeless, wakes
wakful, wakless, waks
Although we usually keep silent E when we add a consonant suffix, there are a few specific exceptions to this rule. There are not as many exceptions as with the vowel suffixes, but it’s still important to know when to omit silent E with consonant suffixes.

Exception 1: Consonant + LE + “-ly”

When E appears after a consonant + L, it is providing a vowel to complete the final syllable of the word. When we attach the suffix “-ly” to words that have this spelling pattern, it takes over this final syllable and replaces both L and E. For example:
  • able→ably
  • bristle→bristly
  • bubble→bubbly
  • double→doubly
  • gristle→gristly
  • sensible→sensibly
  • subtle→subtly
  • thistle→thistly
  • voluble→volubly
There are two exceptions within this exception, though. When we form adverbs from the adjectives brittle and supple, it is standard to keep the silent E because it still denotes a distinct syllable that is not replaced by “-ly”:
  • brittle→brittlely
  • supple→supplely
(However, omitting E is also considered an acceptable variant, especially with brittle. Omitting E with supple yields supply, which already has another specific meaning, so it is considered more standard to keep the E.)

Exception 2: truly and duly

Most adjectives ending in “-ue” have a Q (or, in one case, a G) before the two vowels. The silent E makes it clear that the three letters together form a single-syllabled hard consonant sound (QUE=/k/; GUE=/g/), so we keep it when we add the consonant suffix “-ly” to form adverbs. For example:
  • brusque→brusquely
  • grotesque→grotesquely
  • unique→uniquely
  • vague→vaguely
In the words true and due, on the other hand, silent E does not determine the pronunciation of another letter—it’s just there so the word does not end in a U, so when we add “-ly” to form an adverb, we drop the E:
  • true→truly
  • due→duly
However, there’s also an exception to this exception: when the word blue is made into an adverb with “-ly,” we keep the silent E, resulting in bluely. Luckily, this word is fairly uncommon in everyday speech and writing, but it’s still good to know how it is spelled in comparison to truly and duly.

Exception 3: “-ment” with argue, acknowledge, and judge

The consonant suffix “-ment” typically behaves like any other when it follows silent E—that is, E is kept in the word. For instance:
  • advertise→advertisement
  • baffle→bafflement
  • encourage→encouragement
  • excite→excitement
  • manage→management
  • pave→pavement
  • retire→retirement
However, when "-ment” follows the verbs argue, acknowledge, and judge, we omit the E instead of keeping it:
  • argue→argument
  • acknowledge→acknowledgment
  • judge→judgment

acknowledgment vs. acknowledgement and judgment vs. judgement

Be aware that both acknowledgment and judgment can be spelled with the silent E—in British English, this is actually the more common spelling. However, in American English, it is preferred (and often considered more correct) to omit the E for these two words.
Argument, on the other hand, can only be spelled the one way; arguement is never correct.

More information on silent E

All of the conventions we’ve looked at in this section have to do with the purpose and functionality of silent E in root words; knowing how it works will help you remember whether to keep or omit it before a suffix. If you’re not clear on the different ways this silent vowel letter works, go to the section on Silent E to learn more.
Quiz

1. Silent E is generally not omitted before which type of suffixes?




2. When silent E follows C or G, which vowel suffix does not result in it being omitted?





3. When does adding the suffix “-ly” result in silent E being omitted?







4. Which of the following suffixed words is spelled correctly?





5. When do we keep silent E before the vowel suffix “-y”?







Get all volumes of The Farlex Grammar Book in paperback or eBook.
Share Tweet Share

Conversations