Double consonants

From Teflpedia

Double consonants appear when adding a suffix if the base word uses the so-called "short" sound of a vowel. See So-called “short” and “long” vowels.

A E I O U
Short sound trap /æ/ dress /e/ kit /ɪ/ lot /ɒ/ strut /ʌ/
Long sound or "name sound" face /eɪ/ theme /iː/ price /aɪ/ bone /əʊ/ cute /juː/, flute /uː/, produce /juː,BrEAmE/

For example, “hop” gives “hopped”, with a double consonant in addition to the suffix -ed. Similarly “fat” gives “fatter”, with a t in addition to the suffix -er.

Magic e explains the necessity of consonant doubling. Take the verb “hope”. If we just add “-ed” then we have “hoped” (note that we compressed two “e”s in order not to have “hopeed”). But suppose we want to add an “-ed” to “hop” and at the same time preserve its vowel sound? Obviously if we write “hoped” we will have the same word as before. In order to indicate the correct vowel sound in “hop” we double the previous consonant to produce “hopped”.

Normally "kk" is not used (exception: trekking); what is used is "ck".

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
e
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
ɔɪ
price mouth choice
Letter Phoneme Word ending in consonant Double consonant Phoneme Word with magic e Single consonant
a /æ/ plan planning /eɪ/ plane planing
e /e/ pen penned /iː/ theme themed
i /ɪ/ win winner /aɪ/ write writer
o /ɒ/ hop hopping /əʊ/ hope hoping
u /ʌ/ fun funny /juː, uː/ cute, rule cutie, ruled
y /ɪ/ gym /aɪ/ type typed

Double consonants are used also in the middle of words with no suffixes. For example in “follow” (/ɒ/ sound) and “solar” (/əʊ/ sound). However “solid” also has an /ɒ/ sound, and no double consonant. Based on this example we generalize as follows: the double consonant pattern shows that the vowel has its short sound (or schwa) but a single consonant cannot be used to determine the pronunciation.

Double consonants at the end of a word[edit]

Double consonants at the end of a word are normally redundant as these examples show:

  • A as /æ/: add - bad
  • E as /e/: egg - leg
  • I as /ɪ/: inn - win
  • O as /ɒ/: odd - god
  • U as /ʌ/: mutt - cut
  • Y as /ɪ/: chlorophyll - pterodactyl

The table below shows single or double consonants at the end of the word preceded by a single vowel. Uncommon patterns are indicated with yellow.

Letter Single letter Double letter Spelling anomalies
b club - job - web
c music - public - traffic black - clock - pick
d bed - glad - red add - odd
f chef - if off - sheriff - staff
g big - dog - drug egg
h Sarah - Utah
j
k trek
l hotel - local - level doll - tell - will "a" as /ɔː/: all - ball - call - fall - hall - install - small - tall - wall
"o" as /əʊ/: control - patrol; poll - roll - scroll - stroll - toll
"u" as /ʊ/: bull - full - pull
m problem - swim - them
n can - plan - when inn
p drop - ship - step
q Iraq
r car - sir - water err - purr
s bus - gas - this across - class - less "a" as /eɪ/: bass (music)
t but - lot - that boycott - mutt
v mazeltov
x tax
z quiz jazz - buzz

A + double consonant is /æ/ or /ə/[edit]

The real rule is: A + double consonant is (almost) never /eɪ/

See also

IPA phoneme /æ/
Decoding the letter A
So-called “short a”
  • As /æ/: channel - happy - package - traffic
  • As /ə/: account - address - again - around

Exceptions

  • As /eɪ/: bass (in music)
  • As /ɔː/: all - ball - call - caller - fall - hall - small - smaller - tall - taller

Exceptions only in British English

  • As /ɑː,BrE æAmE/: class - classes - giraffe - glass - pass - passing - staff - staffed

E + double consonant is /e/ or /ə/[edit]

The real rule is: E + double consonant is never /iː/

See also

IPA phoneme /e/
Decoding the letter E
So-called “short e”
  • As /e/: better - effort - letter - pepper - success - well

Exceptions:

  • As /ɪ/: effect - efficient - essential - pretty

I + double consonant is /ɪ/ or /ə/[edit]

This rule also means I + double consonant is never /aɪ/

See also:

IPA phoneme /ɪ/
Decoding the letter I
So-called “short i”
  • As /ɪ/: innocent - little - middle - miss - still - village

O + double consonant is /ɒ/ or /ə/[edit]

This rule means O + double consonant is seldom /əʊ/

See also:

IPA phoneme /ɒ/
Decoding the letter O
So-called “short o”
  • As /ɒ/: comment - occupy - office - opportunity
  • As /ə/: colloquial - communication - occur - official

Exceptions:

  • as /əʊ/: controlled - patrolled - poll - roll - scroll - stroll - stroller - toll
  • As /ʌ/: sonny - tonne

U + double consonant is /ʌ/ or /ə/[edit]

This rule means U + double consonant is never /juː/ or /uː/

See also:

IPA phoneme /ʌ/
Decoding the letter U
So-called “short u”
  • butter - dummy - funny - runny - summer - sunny

Exceptions:

  • As /ʊ/: bull - bullet - full - pull

Y + double consonant is /ɪ/ or /ə/[edit]

This rule also means Y + double consonant is never /aɪ/

See also:

Decoding the letter Y
  • As /ɪ/: syllable - syllogism - symmetrical - yttrium
  • As /ə/: odyssey

R and double consonants[edit]

In the sequence VrrV, where V is a vowel sound, the spelling "rr" is used for two different sounds. The “short” sound of the vowel (as in carry) and the rhotic monophthong (as in starry.) This second sound is used only when adding suffixes. For example if we add -ed to occur we double the consonant and we get occurred.

Letter So-called “short” sound Double consonant Phoneme Word ending in consonant Double consonant
(rhotic monophthong)
Phoneme Word with magic e Single consonant
a /æ/ carry /ɑː/ bar barred /eə/ bare bared
e /e/ cherry /ɜː/ prefer preferred /ɪə/ mere merest
i /ɪ/ mirror /ɜː/ stir stirred /aɪə/ fire fired
o /ɒ,BrE ɔːAmE/ torrid /ɔː/ abhor abhorred /ɔː, oə/ bore bored
u /ʌ/ hurry /ɜː/ occur occurred /jʊə, ʊə, ɔː/ cure - assure cured - assured
y /ɪ/ /ɜː/ myrrh /aɪə/ tyreBrE

Minimal pairs[edit]

Letter Phoneme Word ending in consonant Double consonant Phoneme Word with magic e Single consonant
a /æ/ hat hatted, hatting, hatter /eɪ/ hate hated, hating, hater
latter late later
plan planned, planning plane planed, planing
tap tapped, tapping tape taped, taping
a /æ/ marry /eə/ Mary
a /ɑː/ bar barred, barring /eə/ bare bared, baring
scar scarred, scarring scare scared, scaring
star starred, starring stare stared, staring
i /ɪ / dinner /aɪ/ dine diner
fill filled, filling like filed, filing
lick licked, licking like liked, liking
win winning wine wining
i /ɪ / litter /iː/ literAmE
o /ɒ/ comma /əʊ/ coma
holly holy
hop hopped, hopping hope hoped, hoping
rob robbed robe robed
stock stocked, stocking stoke stoked, stoking
u /ʌ/ cut cutter /juː/ cute cuter
dull dully duly
hug(*) hugger huge huger
supper /uː/ super
u /ɜː/ fur furry /jʊə/ fury

(*) Not a minimal pair, because the consonant also sounds differently

Other cases
Root Double consonant IPA Root Single consonant IPA
belly bellies /ˈbeliːz/ belie belies /bɪˈlaɪz/

"ss" vs. "s"[edit]

In most of the following pairs "ss" is a digraph that sounds /s/. In most examples "s" sounds /z/.

Root Double consonant IPA Root Single consonant IPA
brass /brɑːs,BrE bræsAmE/ bra bras /brɑːz/
caress /kəˈres/ care cares /keərz/
cosy cosiness /ˈkəʊziːnəs/ cosine cosines /ˈkəʊsaɪnz/
deadly deadliness /ˈdedliːnəs/ deadline deadlines /ˈdedlaɪnz/
dessert /dɪˈzɜːrt/ desert (n.) /ˈdezərt/
loss losses /lɒsɪz,BrE lɔːsɪzAmE/ lose loses /luːzɪz/
mousse /muːs/ mouse /maʊs/
need needless /ˈniːdləs/ needle needles /ˈniːdəlz/
princess /ˈprinsɪs, ˈprinses, prinˈses/ prince princes /ˈprinsɪz/
timely timeliness /ˈtaɪmlinəs/ timeline timelines /ˈtaɪmlaɪnz/

Homophones[edit]

  • ad, add; desert (v.), dessert; in, inn;

See also[edit]

References[edit]