Difference between revisions of "Decoding exercises: "ie""

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(/ɪ/ or /ə/: typo)
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== See also ==
== See also ==
*[[Correcting mistakes]]
*[[Correcting mistakes]]
*[[Decoding the letter Y]]
*[[Past tense pronunciation]]
*[[Past tense pronunciation]]
*[[Pronunciation of the letter Y]]
==External links==
==External links==

Revision as of 16:55, 30 March 2016

pie /paɪ/

niece /niːs/

I before E except after C

This rule of thumb is not always true. This article explores the "ie" part. For the "cei" part see Pronunciation exercises: "ei".

Together with the article on decoding difficulties, this page sets out some common (or not...) words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can sound out more correctly the different sounds corresponding to words containing "ie".

Depending on their mother tongue (L1), students may have difficulty distinguishing between these sounds. More often than not, these supposed difficulties depend more on the interference of L1 than on the actual difficulties posed by English, and many, if not most students will greatly improve their pronunciation by simply becoming aware of certain differences - together with a minimum of practice.

Don't forget that intonation, linking and stress, both for individual words and for sentence stress, are also, of course, of vital importance in speaking better English.

In this case, it might be interesting to point out the difference between the past participles in carried vs tried, etc.


IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
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
price mouth choice

The rule of thumb "I before E except after C" is intended to be used only when the vowel sound is /iː/.

  • as /iː/: achieve - belief - believe - brief - chief - field - grief - niece - piece - rabies - relief - relieve - series - Sheffield - shield - skied - thief - Wakefield - yield

Exception to the rule: species

Stressed /ɪ/

  • as /ɪ/: sieve (possibly the only stressed case)

/ɪ/ or /ə/

  • mischievous /ˈmɪstʃɪvəs/ or /ˈmɪstʃəvəs/

Unstressed /iː/ or /ɪ/

See also Pronunciation exercises: /ɪ/ vs /iː/#Unstressed syllable

  • At the end of the word: auntie - hippie - movie - Stephanie
  • Derived forms of -y verbs
  • -ies third person and -ied past tense: carries - carried; hurries - hurried; marries - married; studies - studied; tidies - tidied; worries - worried;
  • -ies plural of -y nouns: apologies - babies - berries - cities - companies - countries - families - ferries - hoodies - ladies - rubies - stories;

Note that there are very few minimal pairs that contrast /ɪ/ and /iː/ in unstressed position.


  • as /ɪə/: fierce - pierce - piercing - tier


  • ie: die - lie - pie - tie
  • -ies third person and -ied past tense of -y verbs: applies - applied; cries - cried; denies - denied; dries - dried; flies - flied; fries - fried; multiplies - multiplied; spies - spies; supplies - supplied; tries - tried; verifies - verified
  • -ies plural of -y nouns: cries - flies - fries - spies


  • ancient - efficient - patient - soldier - sufficient


  • Daniel /ˈdænjəl/
  • friend /frend/
  • Vietnam has at least four alternatives: "Viet" as /ˌvjet/ or /ˌviːet/ and "nam" as /ˈnæm/ or /ˈnɑːm/. Wikipedia gives also /ˌviːətˈnɑːm/.

"ie" in two separate syllables


  • anxiety - diet - quiet - science - society - variety
  • drier - supplier

/ɪ.ə/ or /iː.ə/

The period indicates separate syllables, and here it is used to distinguish /ɪ/+/ə/ and phoneme /ɪə/).

  • audience - experience
  • Derived forms of -y adjectives
  • comparatives: busier - earlier - easier - funnier - happier - prettier - sunnier - uglier


  • skier /skiːər/
  • Derived forms of -y adjectives
  • superlatives: /ɪɪ/ or /iːɪ/ busiest - earliest - easiest - funniest - happiest - prettier - ugliest


See also

External links