Simple, yet complex

Always follow a ‘q’ with a ‘u’ and remember ‘I before E, except after C’. Simple? Well, actually no.

June 13, 2020 07:31 pm | Updated 07:31 pm IST

English is indeed a funny language. Most often, the spelling of a word does not match its pronunciation. One reason for this is that there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet. In order to be able to read English, a wide variety of sounds have to be produced with the help of these limited number of letters.

However, there are some rules that may help us with our spelling. One such rule is that ‘q’ is always followed by ‘u’.

Words like Quality, Quantity, Quake, Quark, Question, Quarter, Quote, Equal, Equator and so on. So when you start a word with a ‘q’ you can be sure that the second letter is a ‘u’ . This rule applies even if the ‘q’ is inside the word, as in Equator . If you follow this rule, and if your teacher is one of those angelic ones, she might credit you for getting part of the word right, even if the rest of the word is not!

Here’s another tip. There’s a rule in English that goes, “I before E, except after C.” That means we always write ‘i’ first, and then ‘e’ . Words like piece, chief and brief follow the first part of the rule.

Words like deceive, receive and conceit follow the second part of the rule; that is, whenever there is a ‘c’ , it is followed by ‘ei’.

Unfortunately there are many exceptions to this rule. Here are some words where ie follows ‘c’: efficient, ancient and society . Here are some words where ‘ei’ is used even though there’s no ‘c’:vein, weight and height . So if you have studied this rule, it is best to forget it as soon as possible, or you have to keep in mind all the exceptions too, which are quite a few.

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