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Welcome to this week's FREE English lesson on the Web's best site for ESL students and teachers...

Topic: Doubling the last letter in English words

Many of you know that when you compare 2 things in English, you add –er to one syllable words.  For example:

·         John is smart.  Nancy is smart, too.  Nancy is smarter than John.

But, what happens when you have a word like “hot?”  Take a look:

·         The stove is hot.  The oven is hot.  The stove is hotter than the oven.

Did you notice that “hot” became “hotter?”  And did you notice that the “t” in “hot” was doubled and became “tt?” Many English students struggle with this doubling rule.  In fact, this doubling-letter rule is also in other parts of grammar.  For instance:

I like to swim.  I am swimming, right now.

We have a great rule to help you remember when to double the last letter and when NOT to (and this rule is NOT in most textbooks)!  Take the quiz below and then look at the answers and explanations below.

Directions:  Use the correct form of the word in parentheses to fill in the blank.

1.     After my umbrella broke, I was _______ than when I come out of a shower.  (wet+er)

2.     We couldn’t take pictures of the museum because we had ______ the camera.     (forget)

3.     Last year, we _______  Europe to see the most famous historical sites.   (visit)

4.     In 1989, a deadly earthquake _______ in San Francisco, California.   (occur)

5.     Margaret is ________ all over the city for a new computer. I hope she finds one that suits her needs.   (shop)

6.     Warren has been to over 150 countries of the world!  He is a real world ________.    (travel+er)


7.)    Richard is so ________.  He would forget his head if it were not attached.   (forget+ful)

The best way to remember when to double the last letter is to remember the “C-V-C rule.”  The C-V-C says that if you are adding a suffix (letters added to the end of a word, like the –ed in happened) to a word, first look at the last three letters of the word.  If those three letters are consonant-vowel-consonant, then double the last letter of the word. 

The consonants are: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y (sometimes), z. 

The vowels are: a, e, i, o, u  


So let’s do an example:   The word is SHOP

What are the last three letters in the word “shop?”  H-O-P

  Using the consonant/vowel chart above, is this “H” a consonant? YES Using the consonant/vowel chart above, is this “O” a vowel? YES Using the consonant/vowel chart above, is this “P” a consonant? YES
  C V C

The last 3 letters in the word “SHOP” have a C-V-C combination.  Therefore, double the “P” when adding a suffix.  Hence, you write




Therefore, the answers to our quiz above are:

1.) wetter     2.)  forgotten    3.) visited     4.) occurred     5.) shopping     

6.) traveler   7.)  forgetful (see rule 1 below!)     

Rules to Remember!


This C-V-C rule can be used only if the first letter of the suffix (the letters you are adding) is a vowel.  For example:


Add the suffix –ed, and we get regretted (double t).

Add the suffix –ful, and we get regretful (NOT a double t).

Why?  Because the first letter in –ed is “e” which is a vowel, double the “t.”  The first letter in –ful is “f” which is a consonant, so the “t” is NOT doubled.


There are quite a few exceptions to memorize.  The following words never double the last letter, regardless of the suffix:













The following letters are rarely or never doubled when adding a suffix:

C, H, Q, W, X, Y

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