Spelling Tips: When to Drop the “E”
  • 3-minute read
  • 6th February 2016

Spelling Tips: When to Drop the “E”

Thanks to acid house, the phrase “dropping an ‘e’” sounds rather unsavory these days. Nevertheless, in some situations, dropping an “e” is essential to correct spelling (which is how we proofreaders get our kicks).

More specifically, you need to be careful when adding a suffix to a word that ends in “e” because this changes how certain words are spelled. Luckily, there are a couple of helpful guidelines to follow.

Suffixes Starting with Vowels

The key rule is that, most of the time, you should drop the “e” from the end of a word when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel (e.g., “-ing,” “-ed” or “-able”).

For example, we can add the suffix “-ed” to the word “talk” to make “talked” without any problem. But when a word already ends in “e,” like “dance,” we drop the final “e” so that the past tense is “danced” (i.e., “danc-ed,” not “dance-ed”).

Other examples include:

Suffix

Example Word

Modified Version

-able

Live

Livable

-age

Dote

Dotage

-ed

Inspire

Inspired

-est

True

Truest

-ing

Note

Noting

-ion

Adulterate

Adulteration

-ory

Celebrate

Celebratory

-ous

Fame

Famous

This isn’t a complete list of relevant suffixes (“-er,” “-ation” and “-ist” are common too), but it should give you a sense of what to look out for. And for this rule, “y” counts as a vowel suffix (e.g., Ice → Icy or Laze Lazy).

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A Few Exceptions

As with any rule, there are exceptions to the convention outlined above. One is the word “being.” Other examples include words that end with two vowels, and words that end with “-ce” or “-ge.” We’ll look at these cases below.

Double Vowels

Words that end in double vowels (e.g., “-ee” or “-oe”) don’t always require the final “e” to be dropped when adding a vowel suffix:

Agree → Agreeable

Shoe → Shoeing

However, some modifications do require you to drop the final “e”:

Argue → Arguable

Accrue Accruing

There’s no shortcut to getting things right here, so you should always double check the spelling with these and similar words.

Words Ending “-ce” and ”-ge”

Here the rule is not to drop the final “e” from words that end with either “-ce” or “-ge” when adding a suffix that starts with an “a” (e.g., “-able”) or an “o” (e.g., “-ous”):

Advantage → Advantageous

Bridge → Bridgeable

Efface → Effaceable

Suffixes Starting with Consonants

Finally, suffixes that begin with consonants, most of which don’t require dropping the final “e” from words that end in that letter; the noun “time,” for instance, can be modified to “timely” by simply adding the suffix “-ly.”

The problematic words are those that end in “-ue” like “true,” “due” or “argue,” which do require you to drop the final “e” when adding a suffix that starts with a consonant:

True → Truly

Due → Duly

Argue → Argument

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Comments (30)
Emma Rose
14th May 2020 at 20:56
How come "outrage" doesn't need the e to be removed to make "outrageous?"
    Proofed
    15th May 2020 at 13:09
    Hi, Emma. "Outrageous" falls under the exception for words that end with "-ge" and "-ce" when adding a suffix that starts with an “a” or “o," as noted in the post. We use the examples "advantage," "bridge," and "efface" above, but the same applies for "outrage" and other words with similar endings.
Brian
6th October 2020 at 20:00
How about rule for dropping "e" when just adding "y" to the noun to create the adjectival form: Ice --> Icy?
    Proofed
    8th October 2020 at 09:17
    Good point, Brian! For this rule, "y" counts as a vowel suffix (e.g., Ice → Icy or Laze → Lazy). We've added this to the post now, too.
      sylvia
      24th January 2021 at 22:50
      is age aging, or ageing, a news man had wrote it "ageing" to keep the e, that didn't look right to me ,so was just wondering.
      Proofed
      25th January 2021 at 10:41
      Hi, Sylvia. Both spellings are accepted, but "ageing" is mostly used in British English and "aging" is far more common in American English.
      Rodney D mckinnon
      20th July 2021 at 19:52
      Your teaching skills are just the way it should be done ! I can tell when a person is an excellent teacher ! Because they know the errors that a person makes in spelling ! You make learning easy ! Keep up the excellent work !
Vasc
24th February 2021 at 14:48
Why does "be" ends up "being", instead of "bing"?
    Proofed
    24th February 2021 at 15:41
    Hi there. This is another exception to the main rules set out in this post (we've added it to the relevant section now for clarity). In this case, the fact that the "e" in "be" is 50% of the word is key, as dropping it would affect clarity compared to the other words in this post. But "be" is also a notable irregular verb with many forms, so maybe it just doesn't want to follow the rules!
      Dulcie
      9th May 2022 at 22:07
      The Drop 'e' Rule is only for final, non syllabic e's, aka "silent e". In the word "be," the 'e' is a grapheme spelling a phoneme (a letter spelling a sound), not a "silent e." Therefore, this is not an exception.
Brunal Alex
7th March 2021 at 23:42
A word that ends in "Y" & in between there is a vowel, we don't change "Y" to "i" we instead add "s" to avoid stress. Viz; Day - days, Chimney - chimneys & so forth. Why do we brake the rules of "Speed (S) + Pronunciation (P) ?" Isn't it too stressful on words that end in double vowels viz; Agree - agreeable? "Agr "eea" ble.
    Proofed
    8th March 2021 at 09:44
    Hi there. We have a separate post on the rule about changing "y" to "i" when adding a suffix in words where the "y" follows a consonant (https://proofed.com/writing-tips/spelling-tips-the-y-to-i-rule/), but I'm not sure I'm familiar with the rule of speed + pronunciation in this context. How does it relate to spelling?
Bryce
4th April 2021 at 20:58
Hi I was wondering.....I wanted to use this as a gaming name: Bounco...... Is it right to replace the e with an o you know BOUNCE into BOUNCO??????
    Proofed
    5th April 2021 at 11:27
    Hi, Bryce. If you're simply picking a name and it doesn't mean anything otherwise, you can spell it in whatever fashion you so desire.
Nigel
11th May 2021 at 06:43
When for example, in large, do you really need to drop the -e instead of adding -d or -st instead?
    Proofed
    11th May 2021 at 08:58
    Hi, Nigel. I'm not sure I follow your question: the rule we discuss here is about dropping the "e" from the end of certain words when adding a vowel suffix, but "-d" and "-st" aren't vowel suffixes (e.g., "large" becomes "largest" without needing to drop the "e"). Can you clarify what you're seeking guidance on at all?
Abhinandan
15th May 2021 at 00:17
What is the logic to keep "e" in case of Handleable. Suffix starts with a vowel and "e" in handle is a silent one. Still Handlable is wrong and Handleable is correct. why?
    Proofed
    19th May 2021 at 09:30
    Hi, Abhinandan. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is a logic to this one: some English words are just exceptions to the usual spelling rules, as a lot of it comes down to convention (i.e., which spellings are accepted as the standard over time).
Jake
21st August 2021 at 19:07
Why is the e present in exchangeable but not purchasable?
    Proofed
    23rd August 2021 at 09:19
    Hi, Jake. We cover this at the end of the post about exceptions to the general rules: i.e., the bit that says "[T]he rule is not to drop the final 'e' from words that end with either '-ce' or '-ge' when adding a suffix that starts with an 'a' (e.g., '-able') or an 'o' (e.g., '-ous')." Hope that helps.
    Amy
    23rd January 2022 at 23:06
    The reason the e is kept in the word handles me is because the silent e here is part of a stable final syllable (or constant le syllable). The rules in English state that every syllable must have a vowel. Handle is a two syllable word (han-dle). Technically we could spell handle as handl, however every syllable needs a vowel and thus silent e was added. When a vowel suffix is added in this case, the syllable division remains the same (still a two syllable base word), and thus it still requires the silent e.
JoAnn B Fitch
4th December 2021 at 17:37
Why is the "e" dropped from possible when spelling possibly?
    Proofed
    6th December 2021 at 16:21
    Hi, JoAnn. "Possibly" doesn't really fit the pattern here since we're not just adding a vowel suffix to a standalone base word: i.e., the suffix is "-ibly" rather than just "-y," and "poss" isn't a word by itself (it comes from the Latin posse, meaning "be able"). As such, it's not that you drop the "-e" from "possible" when adding a suffix, but that "possible" and "possibly" are both words where a suffix is added to the root "poss-" (i.e., "-ible" and "-ibly," respectively, depending on whether you're going for an adjective or adverb).
Ben
8th February 2022 at 13:30
Why adding 'en' to 'write' results in 'written'?
    Proofed
    8th February 2022 at 17:51
    Hi, Ben. Can you clarify your question? Are you asking about why the "t" is doubled and it isn't "writen"? Ultimately, "write" is an irregular verb, so it doesn't follow the usual patterns for forming the past tense or past participle forms (i.e., it becomes "wrote" and "written," respectively, not "writed"). That might make it hard to offer any definitive answers on why it is spelled the way it is, but it may be a result of having once been pronounced differently (i.e., as "writ-ten," with each "t" more clearly distinct).
Rob
27th April 2022 at 14:34
Why is the silent 'e' dropped in acknowledgment?
    Proofed
    28th April 2022 at 08:33
    Hi, Rob. Unfortunately, "acknowledgment" is just one of those ever-so-endearing exceptions to the usual rules that you will often find in English! Although, that is mostly something that affects US English, since the spelling "acknowledgement" (with the extra "e") is common outside of North America (e.g., you can compare which spellings are used in British and American English here, which shows that "acknowledgement" has come increasingly popular in the UK in recent years).
English Teacher
24th June 2022 at 17:25
Bryce, changing the E to an O does change standard pronunciation from a soft C to a hard C so I suppose it might matter how you want people to pronounce it. Bounco would be pronouced Bown-ko, so you might consider Bounce-o or Bounso if you want people to pronounce is Bown-SO. Just a thought.
Teacher Val
6th September 2022 at 14:19
What about eyeing?
    Proofed
    9th September 2022 at 13:01
    Hi, Val. “Eyeing” is the preferred version, though “eying” is accepted for US English. “Eyeing” is one of those examples (as there always are!) that breaks the rule: most of the time, you should drop the “e” from the end of a word when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel.

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