Silent E Words & Rules

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  • 0:04 Silent E
  • 0:29 Vowel Sounds
  • 1:17 Special Cases
  • 1:45 C and G Rules
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

Many English words end with a silent 'e.' What are the rules for using this silent 'e,' and how does it affect the pronunciation of the word? This lesson explains the basic rules for dealing with silent 'e.'

Silent E

Budge, cute, date, fine, give, hike, large, late, line, shave, time, and rose.

What do all of these words have in common? They all end with a silent 'e', an 'e' at the end of the word that's not pronounced. However, while the 'e' is silent, it does affect how the words it's used in are pronounced. There are a few different rules to keep in mind with the silent 'e,' so let's take a look at them.

Vowel Sounds

The most basic thing a silent 'e' can do, especially for small words, is change the pronunciation of the vowel sound. All vowels have two sounds: a short vowel sound and a long vowel sound. In a short vowel sound, a vowel is typically by itself, as in these words:

  • Hat
  • Led
  • Bit
  • Cod
  • Cut

A long vowel sound involves the addition of a silent 'e,' where the resulting words sounds just like the vowel's name:

  • Hate
  • Lede
  • Bite
  • Code
  • Cute

Now, the silent 'e' can only do this when there's only one consonant letter between the silent 'e' and the vowel. Think of the 'e' as jumping over that consonant and telling the vowel, 'Say your name!'

And, as is always the case in English, there are some exceptions. 'Have' and 'give' are probably the two most common words that don't follow the rule.

Special Cases

As we already mentioned, the 'e' can only jump over one letter to make the vowel say its name. So, in words like these, the vowel still says its regular short sound:

  • Large
  • Budge
  • Dance

In addition, because the 'e' can't jump over two letters, you want to double the last consonant when forming the verb's past tense and add an '-ed' ending. This way, the sound of the vowel doesn't change. For example:

  • Hop - hopped
  • Slip - slipped
  • Rub - rubbed

C and G Rules

One final rule to keep in mind with the final 'e' has to do with the times when it comes after a 'c' or a 'g.'

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