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What is a Double Consonant? - Words & Rule

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Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Consonants, or any letters that aren't vowels (A-E-I-O-U) are sometimes doubled at the end of words before suffixes. Discover when consonants should - or shouldn't - be doubled at the end of words through the discussion of various spelling rules. Updated: 11/23/2021

To Double or Not To Double?

Why does 'begin' become 'beginning,' but 'end' becomes 'ending?' Sometimes you double the consonant at the end of a word before you add a suffix that begins with a vowel, but sometimes you don't. Learning the double consonant rules can have a huge impact on your spelling.

Before we get into the rules for doubling consonants, we're going to need to review some terms. A vowel is, generally speaking, a letter that represents a sound you can make with your mouth hanging open; also known as A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y. Consonants are all the rest of the letters left over: B, C, D, F, G… you get the idea. You could also say that consonants are letters that represent sounds you make by somehow interrupting your airflow, like with your lips when you use the letter B to say 'banana,' with your teeth when you use the letter C to say 'central' or with your tongue when you use the letter K to say 'karaoke.'

Another term important to double consonants is suffix, which is a group of letters you tag on to the end of a word to create a new meaning. You know what it means to be wild, and that it means something different to be wilder, or to be the wildest. -Er and -est are both suffixes, and by adding them you change the meaning of the root word. A suffix that begins with a vowel would include the aforementioned -er and -est, as well as -ing, -able and lots more.

Getting back to the original question: How can you tell when to double the consonant? Let's walk through some rules that might help.

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  • 0:01 To Double or Not to Double?
  • 1:46 Consonant-Vowel-Consonant
  • 2:53 Two-Syllable CVC Words
  • 3:53 Do Not Double: Two Vowels
  • 4:32 Do Not Double: Two Consonants
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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One of the easiest ways to tell if you're going to double the last consonant in a word before adding a suffix is if the root word is one syllable and ends CVC, or consonant-vowel-consonant. Usually words that end CVC will double the last consonant before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel. For example, 'drop' becomes 'dropped' because 'drop' ends with that CVC combination. 'Mend,' however, is vowel-consonant-consonant, so when you add the '-ed' suffix, you leave the root word as-is to make 'mended.'

Let's look at a few more examples. In the word 'fit,' the three letters of the word are consonant-vowel-consonant, so we use a double consonant when adding our prefix. In the word 'blog,' the last three letters (l-o-g) are CVC, so we use a double consonant. The same goes for the words 'big' and 'mad,' whose last three letters are CVC and so also need a double consonant when adding a suffix. Now, let's talk about words bigger than one syllable.

Two-Syllable CVC Words

If the word is two syllables, we have to modify that CVC rule a little bit. It still works if the emphasis is on the second syllable. For example, 'begin' becomes 'beginning,' with two 'n's.

Let's look at a few more examples of two-syllable words whose emphasis is on the second syllable. 'Abut' becomes 'abutted' with two 't's, 'confer' becomes 'conferring' with two 'r's and 'admit' becomes 'admitting' with two 't's.

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