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When to Double Consonants in Spelling: Rules and Examples

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Grammar Geek

‘Oh, she’s sounding off again!’, I hear you say. This time I’ve been asked to clarify a rule so it’s not my fault, ok? Don’t shoot the messenger! I’ll do my utmost to jazz it up a bit, all right? Grammar is not the most glamorous subject and most of you probably just glazed over when anyone mentioned it at school. Not me, I was a grammar geek; give me a secondary clause and a past participle and I’m anybody’s. Where was I....?

Oh yes! 'Always Exploring' asked me about doubling letters. It happens in ‘occurred’ so why doesn’t it happen in ‘jumped’ (i.e. no double ‘p’). It can be confusing but not if you follow the simple rules. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad, trust me!

Like any other subject, spelling has its own jargon which is necessary because it takes a lot longer to explain the intricacies without some of that jargon.

The glossary at the end of this article should help with some of the terminology.

One-Syllable Roots

'The robber was sitting in the middle of the road. The traffic had stopped because he'd dropped a case of banknotes and everyone was grabbing some.'

Those sentences contain a few examples of words where doubling is required.

Firstly, let’s look at the root words of one syllable:

Rule 1: One-Syllable Word 'Consonant, Short Vowel, Consonant.'

When a one-syllable word is 'consonant, short vowel, consonant', double the final consonant when you add a suffix. For example:


Rule 2: Two-Syllable Word With Short Vowel Before Middle Consonant Sound

Now let's consider this sentence.

'I asked him to dinner at the cottage. We had pitted olives and drizzled chicken and a great evening. The next day he was in a coffin. Nobody told me he was allergic to rubber.'

You'll notice several words with double consonants in the middle. It all depends on the vowel, as illustrated below.

In a two-syllable word with a short vowel before the middle consonant, double the consonant.


Rule 3: Words of Two or More Syllables With a Stressed Final Syllable

The following sentence looks at a slightly different reason for doubling the consonant:

'Beginning a long holiday was a good idea; it occurred to him that he preferred the sunshine to help him avoid the fuzz.'

It's all to do with stress. No, not your stress, though you may be experiencing some by now, but the stress or emphasis on a particular syllable. I'll show you:

When a word has more than one syllable, and when the final syllable is stressed in speech, double the final consonant when adding a suffix.


Note that the word ‘preferable’ does not have double ‘r’ - because the stress goes on the first not final syllable.

So now we'll look at what happens when the stress is not on the final syllable.

Rule 4: Don't Double in a Root Word With More Than One Syllable When Last Syllable Not Stressed

In a word with more than one syllable there is no doubling of the last consonant unless the stress is on the last syllable.


Don’t be confused, because the double 'p' in ‘happen’ follows the ‘short vowel/double consonant’ rule.

Rule 5: Don't Double When There is a Long Vowel before the Consonant of Single Syllable Words

As you read the next sentence, think about the pronunciation of vowels in 'dine', 'tune', 'frame' and 'tone'.

‘I was in the diner. The piano tuner was doing his best but the framed painting fell off the wall and landed on his fingers. The newspaper report toned down his language.'

Do not double the consonant when it is preceded by a long vowel in a single-syllable root word.


Rule 6: Don't Double When There Are Two Different Consonants After a Single Vowel

Some words still have two consonants after a vowel but the consonants are two different consonants, not a double of one letter. Two different consonants together are called blends; you can hear the sound of each.

‘He jumped. Unfortunately, his jumper was linked to the railing on the roof so he ended up parked in the balcony, bonded to a sun-lounger which formed a convenient break to his fall.’

Don't double when a consonant blend follows a vowel.


Logical & Painless

There, that wasn’t too painful was it? Keep an eye out when you’re writing and you’ll see how these rules fit in with general spelling. Above all, don’t worry! There are plenty of sources where you can check your spelling if you’re not sure. Just try not to fall into the common traps.

You might just find you’re trapped in a blackened hole with a crazed killer.

Look at that last sentence and see if you can pick out the words which illustrate the main points of this article.

A Little Ditty to make sure you're Sitting Pretty

Double Trouble:

Take a pin and the garment’s pinned,

so with a gin is your tonic ginned?

Dinner was deliciously spiced,

too much, my eyes had to be iced.

Did you know that he’s a winner?

Oh yes, but he’s so much thinner

than the man who punched his eye,

so he won ‘cos he was spry.

The one who jumped had topped his wife

with a sharpened kitchen knife.

Listen, can you hear her running

from the building where he’s gunning

after her because she cheated.

Maybe he’ll catch up and, sheeted,

she’ll be tipped into her coffin,

beaten by a science boffin.

Double consonants can be rotten

but rules should never be forgotten.

Now you need a Gin & Tonic!

Ice & Lemon?  Summer in the Garden

Ice & Lemon? Summer in the Garden


Syllable: each separate beat of a word (containing at least one vowel)

Short vowel: a as in cat, e as in pen, i as in lid, o as in mop, u as in buck

Long vowel: a as in make, e as in Pete, i as in vile, o as in cope, u as in fume or rude.

A long vowel sound is also made by vowel digraphs (2 vowels making one sound):

ai (vain), a-e (make), ea (leap), ee (meet), ie (lie), oa (goat), oo (book), oo (loot), ui (suit)

A long vowel sound can also be a trigraph (3 letters making one sound): 'igh' (sigh)

4 letters can make one sound: eigh (eight, weigh); aigh (straight)

Consonant: all other letters of the alphabet which are not vowels (y can be either)

Consonant blend: two consonants together, where you can hear both sounds,

e.g. bl-e-nd (2 blends, ‘bl’ & ‘nd’), sp-oo-f (1 blend ‘sp’), cr-a-ft (2 blends ‘cr’ & ‘ft’)

Consonant digraph: two consonants representing one sound,

e.g. sh-ou-t (1 digraph ‘sh’), b-a-ss (1 digraph ‘ss’)

Some words have one or more blend and digraph:

e.g. fl-o-ck (1 blend ‘fl’, 1 consonant digraph ‘ck’)

N.B. The letter y can act as a short or long i and a long e, e.g. gym, gyro, happy.

Spelling Issues

Questions & Answers

Question: Is "spilling" a double consonant?

Answer: Yes, but, because it is already there, we leave it. Also, if we wrote 'spiling' the first 'l' would be pronounced long (as 'eye'), and there is no such word that I know of.

Question: Words which have two vowels next to each other then the end consonant is not doubled?

Answer: That is the same as a long vowel and therefore no double consonant follows, e.g. load - loaded, loading

Question: Is "successfully" a double consonant or not?

Answer: Double 'c', each of which has a separate sound, 'k' & 's', but they follow the short vowel. Double 's' which follows the short vowel. Double 'l' because it is 'ful' (successful) with a suffix ('ly') after it. It is 3 syllables. The double consonant rule is for words with just 2 syllables.

Question: Are there rules for spelling when a word starts with a vowel followed by a consonant: e.g., allow instead of alow, attend instead of atend and so on?

Answer: It depends on the vowel being short or long; generally, a short vowel is followed by a double consonant, a long vowel by one, in a two-syllable word. There are always exceptions!

Question: how do you pronounce grass?

Answer: It depends where you live. Queen's English would have an open 'a' as in 'ah', as it would in a southern English accent. Northern English accent would have a short 'a' as in 'at'.

Question: According to the rules that we double the consonant to keep the short vowel directly before it short (as in bottle, happy, rabbit, etc), are the following examples that don't have a double consonant simply exceptions, or do they have a rule of their own that I can't work out? : tonic, melon, habit, lemon which according to the patterns should be spelt tonnic, mellon, habbit, lemmon.

Answer: As far as I know, they are indeed all exceptions. There are some words which we've adopted and therefore don't fit the rules (so have an excuse) but English is full of exceptions that make the rule!

Question: How do double consonants work in American English?

Answer: Basically the same. The accent might be different and some of the spelling such as centre/center differs but generally the rules apply.

Question: Do we double the consonant if the word has more than one syllable?

Answer: These rules are for 2-syllable words; other words vary.

Question: What about the words "amount" and "account"? Why does "account" have two consonants?

Answer: I can only say that it's just another anomaly. I've looked up both and I can see no derivations that give me a clue as to any other reason. 'Account' follows the rules, 'amount' doesn't. However, the general rule is for 2 syllables, both being CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) compositions, such as 'rab/bit'; other variations seem to be less consistent with the rule.

Question: Why don’t we double the second p in proper?

Answer: I'm afraid it's one of those pesky exceptions, of which there are many!

Question: Is apricot pronounced with a long or short a?

Answer: The 'A' in apricot is long in British English.

Question: Does the word 'ADD' follow the double consonant rule? Why isn't it spelt as 'AD'?

Answer: I believe it comes from the Latin 'addendum', which in itself follows that rule (short vowel, double consonant), so the abbreviation would stand.

Question: Why is the 'g' in the adjective long not doubled?

Answer: Because the vowel 'o' is short but already has two consonants.

Question: Why don't we have blends in vowels?

Answer: Single vowels have various sounds, double vowels are usually digraphs (two letters, one sound); however, there are words where two vowels are side by side, e.g. lion, where we do hear each vowel sound, so you could call that a blend. The word 'blend', though, is normally used for two consonants side by side, where the first consonant 'runs into' the next.

Question: Cortege: the 't' is double because of a short vowel 'o' but, in the word- minister there is short vowel 'i' but, 'n' is not double. Why is that?

Answer: 'Cortege' is not quite the same, though it does have two consonants after the first vowel; it's more c/or/tege. Minister, however, is not part of this rule as it has 3 syllables.

Question: Is "collecting" a double consonant?

Answer: Yes. The 'o' is a short vowel therefore requires the double 'l'. The fact that it has the suffix 'ing' is immaterial in this case.

© 2014 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 28, 2020:

You're welcome, Joshua! Glad you found it useful.


Joshua on August 28, 2020:

Quite useful. Thanks

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 08, 2020:

Arjun: thank you for reading and for leaving your comments. I'm glad this was useful.


Arjun on July 08, 2020:

Thank you for the funny and informative post. I didn't know it was so simple. Now I love words that have double letters!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 05, 2020:

Hello Andi,

The 'ia' and 'ai' are double vowels which make a long sound (or the 'ia' is actually two long sounds); the rules for doubling only apply with a short vowel, so the 'e' is on its own and short, so the 'l' is doubled.

Does that sound clear to you? Let me know if not.

Thanks for the question.


Andi on July 05, 2020:

Why l from dial or sail is not double when dialing,sailing? Why is double at selling, telling?

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 24, 2019:

Yes Liz, this language of ours is full catches but that's why I love it so much! I agree with on the 'proves the rule' thing.

I appreciate you dropping by and thanks for the comments. Hope all's well with you.


Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 23, 2019:

Then there are the "drop the final 'e' when adding 'ing' pitfalls. A couple of exceptions to the rule there, as well.

And speaking of exceptions, I always hated the saying/excuse of "...the exception that proves the rule."

WTH??? How does an exception "prove" anything except plain contrariness??!! LOL

Thanks for a clever article from a fellow grammar geek! ;-)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 20, 2019:

That sounds very complicated and I have never come across that way of doing it. If you stick to what I've described then it works most of the time, though there are always exceptions.

The vowel sound changes (from short to long) depending on the amount of consonants following: e.g. 'finned' (short 'i' as in 'a finned fish') and 'fined' (long 'i' as in 'he was fined £10'). That's the same as the doubling rule above but from the vowel's point of view!


Jatinder Singh on March 19, 2019:

Hi Ann, thanks for giving a useful rule info about double consonants. I would like to share one with you, i think when in any spelling on the third position like BDGPTMNO consonants come and its end with ed,ing, er, est, so no. then we use the consonant double. but condition is this all consonant should before any vowel. AIEOU like put-putting, begin- beginning. i think its only implement on BDGPTMNO consonant. if you have any more information please share with me. thanks again give me useful info.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 14, 2019:

cdonovanrotorua: The rule of a 2-syllable word doubling the middle consonant sound, means that you double one letter (referring to the sound): e.g. din/ner. When you already have two consonants (and therefore 2 sounds), as in 'dismay', then you stick to the consonants you already have. 'Dissent' follows the rule - you can hear the 's' sound and you double that consonant. If you had only one 's' it would change the short vowel sound to a long sound, so would sound like 'die/sent'.

I hope that answers your question but feel free to ask for any further clarification.

It certainly is good that your son is thinking about applying rules, so he deserves high praise for that in itself! It's not easy at first but it sounds as though he'll get the hang of it.

Try making your own words, with lower case, on separate cards, and doing the spelling with him. Have a set of single alphabet letters too.

For example:

A card with 'bag', then a single 'g' from the alphabet set, then a card with 'ed'; the same can be done with bud - d - ing, or run - n - er.

Start with 'bag', then work out with him what the middle sound is for bagged, ask him how he would spell it (double the letter and add the ending) and so on.

I can give you lots more ideas if you'd like to email me.


cdonovanrotorua on March 14, 2019:

Hi Ann. My son spelt dismay with a double s today. He said he did that because it followed a short i. I was very excited that he was even trying to apply some spellings rules and then realised I could not really explain why it only had one s. Does it depend on whether the s is followed by a vowel such as in dissent? Thanks Catherine

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 28, 2019:

Artorius: Thank you for your comment.


Artorius on February 28, 2019:

I found this very interesting and helpful

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 20, 2018:

Yes, Glenis. I gave the short and long vowel options which tend to reflect Midlands-North accents and the southern accents. I tend to use the long vowel as I come from Sussex but when with my sister in York I often use the short vowel as our father was a Yorkshireman! I like the fact that I can choose!

I hadn't noticed Meghan's accent; that's an interesting observation.

Thanks for reading and for your valuable input, Glenis.


Glen Rix from UK on July 20, 2018:

It's strange. I attended a grammar school but can't recall being taught rules relating to spelling. It just seems to come naturally, perhaps because I was always an avid reader. I landed here because I read in my feed that you had answered a question about how to pronounce grass, Ann. Here's my take on that - I'm from the East Midlands so speak with a short letter A - unless I'm trying to appear terribly posh, in which case I might say grars. Incidentally, have you noticed that the woman who in a former life was Meghan Markle is now speaking Queen's English on many occasions? She sounds like Kate. One of the advantages of being an actress.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 20, 2018:

Hello Sunita. Thank you for reading and commenting.

The above rules are about 2-syllable words, which 'attraction isn't; 'middle' fits the rule, the main thing being a short vowel before double letters in the middle of a 2-syllable word.

There are plenty more words, sadly the list would be almost endless!

I appreciate your interest.


Sunita on June 20, 2018:

As per above rules the double letters comes between 2 vowels. But found few exceptions like " attraction" , "middle".

Middle is a metathesis though we hear the e sound before l we write it later(interchange).

Are there more words, any list.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 01, 2018:

Lalit Kumar Sharma: Thank you

LALIT Kumar sharma on April 30, 2018:


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 23, 2018:

buses - an exception! English is full of them which is what makes it one of the most difficult languages to learn; I'm glad it's my mother tongue!

Unsure on April 23, 2018:

Ok so what about the word bus being made plural. Is it buses or busses?

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 13, 2018:

Sadly, Sunita, there are many exceptions to most rules. It would be impossible to give you a list of them right now but I'll look into it and see if I can come up with a hub!

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Sunita on March 13, 2018:

Thank you for sharing the rules for double consonant, was helpful. However the rule2 is applicable for words like rabbit, traffic ... why not raddish?....correct 1 is radish.

can you provide list of such words ...the exceptional cases.

thank you.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 07, 2018:

Thank you Batista. Glad this has helped you.


Batista yob Kiswaga on March 06, 2018:

Thank you for the useful topic you have presented above. I had crucial problem in doubling consonant, but now you have solved.

Feridoon Noori on January 12, 2018:

what about double consonants at the end of a word like "throw"

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 27, 2017:

That follows the basic rule of double consonants after a short vowel; there is a bank of words with ff, ll and ss, as in stuff, doll & mess. Good question Deborah and thanks for reading.


Deborah Cichra on September 27, 2017:

What about double consonants at the end of a word like "fluff"?

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 07, 2017:

Thanks Bill! Always exceptions! Thanks for reading.


Bill Bingham on September 07, 2017:

It would seem that "offered" and "suffered" do not follow your rule, (but "preferred" and "occurred" do.)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 09, 2015:

DJ, don't worry; spelling isn't the be all and end all. The odd mistake doesn't spoil a good story. There's no shame in asking someone; just an alternative to a dictionary.

Thanks for your amusing comment; I appreciate you coming by and thanks for following me.


DJ Anderson on March 09, 2015:

Oh, my!! What would I do without my spell check? I am the world's worst speller, and somehow my son, like my mother are spelling champs.

Yes, it was embarrassing to ask my middle school son how to spell something. No, it did not deter me, as it took forever to look a word up in the dictionary. My conclusion was I must have been missing the spelling gene, and the grammar gene. However, I did love math.

I will have to give this more attention on a day where I have absolutely

nothing else to do.

But, thank for trying!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 13, 2015:

peachpurple: It's all in the vowels! Thanks for your second visit today; much appreciated.


peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 13, 2015:

I always have problems with the double alphabets

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 31, 2014:

Thanks, DDE. Glad you found this useful. Happy New Year!


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 31, 2014:

I learn more each day in grammar and more of the English language I prefer the British English. You have shared a very useful hub and a well-chosen topic. A Happy New Year to you!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 22, 2014:

Thanks for that Catherine. There are quite a few different rules between the US and the UK English, as I understand. The British rules for quotation marks make more sense to me too, purely because they clarify meaning.

Having said that, I don't want anyone to think that I think British rules are superior to US rules! I think I've trodden on a few people's toes which is something I definitely didn't want to do (in my hub on Writing Issues). I'm here to try to help, not to annoy people.

I appreciate you getting back to me and for your support, Catherine.


Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on December 22, 2014:

BTW, I went on the internet to check. The rules for quotes for American English do different from those for British English. The British rules make much more sense.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 22, 2014:

Like you, it comes naturally to me but those rules have developed a sound pattern from my teaching of dyslexics and it's ingrained in my brain!

Miss Grammers knows it all so well too.

Although I'm pretty good at spelling etc I have to look things up now and then too!

Thanks for visiting, Catherine.

Hope you have a great Christmas.


Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on December 22, 2014:

You were a kind and patient teacher. however, remembering the rules is not so easy. I think I'll just rely on spellcheck and dictionaries. Most of the time after a long lifetime speaking and writing English, I just know when to double and when not to double. But, thank heaven for spellcheck.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 22, 2014:

Thank you, Faith. Yes I did have a busy day! Glad to help. I appreciate your kind comments and your votes. Enjoy your day!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 22, 2014:

Shame on you, Frank! I'm sure you have a feminine side :)

Thanks for the comment; glad you found this useful.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 22, 2014:

RonElFran: I don't know where they originated and there are always so many exceptions. I do know that all these rules have helped our dyslexic students because it clarifies patterns and breaks up words into manageable 'chunks'.

I know that UK and US English have different rules, or at least different patterns; US tends to be plainer and easier and I guess ours will eventually become the same.

Interesting that you say you just go by the look of the word - that shows you have an inner sense of what should be! Well done! Thank you so much for your comment.


Frank Atanacio from Shelton on December 21, 2014:

annart, a very helpful and useful hub.. like the ditty too but i didn't want to sit pretty LOL

Faith Reaper from southern USA on December 21, 2014:

You are busy this day, dear Ann. This is very helpful and I know doubling consonants can be so tricky at times. Thank you for your willingness to explain these rules in such a clear and precise manner.

Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Hugs and blessings, dear teach!

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 21, 2014:

Interesting article. I never thought about there being patterns to when consonants are doubled. You just sort of know from seeing words. For me the next question is, how did these rules come to be? There seems to be too much consistency for them to have just happened. But we know that, unlike the French, we have no academy attempting to formulate the rules for English.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

Thanks, Dora. I hope it helps at least a few. Thanks for reading and for the votes.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 21, 2014:

Thanks for another important lesson. You make the rules easy to remember. Voted up!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

always exploring: You've got it; well done! It might well be that you missed this lesson; it's not something that's done often, at least not in Britain. In fact, I don't think they teach grammar at all any more.

You're welcome. Thanks for reading and leaving your input. I'm shelving grammar hubs for a while as I find it quite exhausting trying to make them vaguely interesting!

Happy Christmas!


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 21, 2014:

Can you believe I've been here for some time and I kid you not. I see the light. It was dim at first but you kept on until I got the ' long and short of the subject. ' All kidding aside, I do understand so much better. Thank you Ann. I'll be watching for more instructions. I must have ' skipped ' class the day I was ' supposed ' to learn this. Hee.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

Pawpawwrites: Grammar is difficult for many but it's not impossible!

I 'might' means it's possible and I'll think about it; 'I may' means I'm allowed to or I can.

Thanks for the visit.


Jim from Kansas on December 21, 2014:

Grammar is a weakness of mine, so I may have to visit this page again.

Or should it be I might have to visit this page again........see what I mean.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

alancaster49: Hello! Good to see you.

Indeed, there are many spelling differences; much of US English has been simplified which is good as it avoids some confusion. It's interesting that we do have some of those choices. I love seeing the evolution of language.

Many of my dyslexics students used to ask why they couldn't spell phonetically. I wish I could've let them go ahead; they were much better at that! So perhaps that's an indication that we should bin all the spelling rules and go with the flow. Frankly I'm torn but my purist English education is deeply embedded in my psyche! Ah well....

Season's Greetings to you too; I hope you enjoy the Christmas period and that 2015 is a great year for you and yours.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

Hilarious, bill! I wouldn't dare to say that, of course.

Thanks as always. I'm enjoying a quiet day with my computer, looking forward to the build up to Christmas Day. For once I'm organised but don't worry it won't happen again.

Happy holidays to you too, bill. May you have a wonderful Christmas full of joy and peace with all your family.

Ann :)

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on December 21, 2014:

Hello again Ann, Season's Greetings.

Across the Pond they use variations from UK/Commonwealth English. Where we write, e.g. 'excelled' 'smelled', 'levelled' they have 'exceled', 'smelt' and 'leveled'. As a rule grammar rules between US and UK are one and the same, there are differences that go back in date beyond Standard English (late 18th-early/mid 19th Century).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 21, 2014:

Good morning, Ann, and Happy Sunday to you! Little did I know I'd be going back to school today. Does the education never end???? :)

Great primer on grammar. Hopefully some of the writers on HP will read this....heck, hopefully some of the editors on HP will read this. :) Oops, did I just say that? :)

Have a great day, my friend, and Happy Holidays to you.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 21, 2014:

Exactly, John. Thanks for your kind comment. I just hope it's useful!

Great to see you today! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas week and that Christmas Day is joyous for you and yours.


John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on December 21, 2014:

A very well written and helpful hub Ann. To double consonants or not to double consonants, that is the question. Thanks for this.