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"i" before "e" exceptions

Does the rule "i" before "e" except after c always apply? What are the exceptions to english spelling rules such as these?

As we already know, i comes before e except after c in words such as:

siege, friend, thief,

As e comes before i after c in words such as:

ceiling, receive, deceive, conceit

The only exceptions to these rules are:

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in words that sound like "A" such as:

neighbor, weigh, weight, freight, feign, beige, reign, sleigh, vein, surveillance, etc

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in words where "c" sounds like "sh" such as:

ancient, efficient, species

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in words with a long "ee" sound such as:

weird, seize, leisure, being, either, neither, sheik

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in most chemical names such as:

caffeine, casein, codeine, protein, pthalein, etc

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in most proper names such as:

Keira, Breidi, Kieth, Neil, Ashleigh, Sheila, Deirdre, etc

i before e icon i before e does NOT occur in most prefixes starting in "de" or "re":

deindustrialize, reingnite, reinstitutionalize,

i before e icon There are also many other difficult to classify exceptions such as:

counterfeit, feisty, rottweiller, seismic, seismograph, stein, zeitgeist, foreign, forfeit, sovereign, surfeit, albeit, atheism, deify, deity, herein, gneiss, height, veil, etc

Many of these words have some type of common theme or sound that we can somehow use to remember. There have been several mnemonics developed to assist in remembering some of these exceptions.

i before e icon "i before e except after c or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh."

i before e icon "When the sound is ee it's i before e except after c."

i before e icon"Neither the weird financier nor the foreigner seizes leisure at its height."

i before e icon"Let neither financier inveigle the sheikh into seizing either species of weird leisure.

i before e icon"Neither leisured sheik seized Deirdre's weird foreign heights,"

Here's a visual quick recap of those i before e exceptions

i before e exceptions graphic


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"i" before "e" words

The rule i before e except after c has many exceptions. In fact it has so many that the British government advised against teaching the rule in June of 2009.

The word that violates the rule the worst in the English language is “oneiromancies,” which is actually the plural form of oneiromancy. It's meaning is divination by means of dreams. The word breaks the rule twice, in both ways.

Therefore in the situation of writing or even spelling them during a Spelling Bee correctly, it is more advisable to learn these exceptions by 'sight' so that one can determine if they look and appear to be spelled correctly.

These are some of the most common exceptions with i before e words.

See the most common exceptions to i before e words

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i before e book

The i before e except after c book was written by Judy Parkinson and teaches old-school ways to remember stuff. It's an amusing collection of brilliant mnemonics that were developed to help us learn important facts as children that will stay with us as adults.


* Geography: Remember North East South West by reciting the phrase Never Eat Slimy Worms or Naughty Elephants Squirt Water.
* The Calendar Months and Days: “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; All the rest have 31 excepting February alone; And that has 28 days clear; With 29 in each leap year”
* Roman Numerals: “I Value Xylophones Like Cows Dig Milk”

Judy also includes poems and other tricks like using your knuckles to remember how many days in each month, using a poem to memorize the value of pi to 31 places, simple spelling tricks for students and teachers such as how to spell the word "beautiful" by remembering the saying "Big Elephants Are Usually BEAUtiful".

The clever acronyms are endless and makes a perfect addition to students, teachers and any language lover's collection.

View the i before e book
i before e book Read the i before e book by Judy Parkinson

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