combatting or combating

rikki tornado

Senior Member
English
Which is the correct version? And what is the rule (if there is one) for doubling the consonant when forming the gerund/present participle or whatever they deign to call the thing nowadays? I've been out of school too long!
 
  • Thelb4

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Usually, the rule is that if the stress is on the last syllable of the un-gerund-ised version of the word, and the word ends in a single consonant after a short vowel sound, the consonant is doubled:
    hitting, swimming, begging
    When any of these are not true, the consonant remains the same:
    basking, calling (multiple consonants)
    cooking, voting, hating (long vowel sound)
    educating, procrastinating (stress not on last syllable),
    With the word "combat", my first thought was that "combating" with one 't' looked wrong. However, after checking in a dictionary, it seems that "combatting" is "especially British", and "combating" is used elsewhere.
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Which is the correct version? And what is the rule (if there is one) for doubling the consonant when forming the gerund/present participle or whatever they deign to call the thing nowadays? I've been out of school too long!
    Interestingly enough, it is correct with the single "t" and with the double "t," although the doubling tends to be seen more in British usage and the single in American English. It's the same with quite a few other words such as travel.

    Personally, I opt to double the consonant because it looks better to me that way; but, like you, I get some nasty looks from spell check.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Thank you. My initial instinct was to use a double t, but when my computer started putting a wavy red line under them I began to have my doubts.
    As MuttQuad has pointed out, many verbs double the consonant in BE but not usually in AE. How your spell-checker reacts depends on whether you've selected US English, UK English, or any of the 16 other kinds of English (if you're using Microsoft Office). That said, I find the MS spellcheck is often inconsistent and rather unreliable, so I'd take those wavy red lines with a pinch of salt (or just switch them off!).

    Whilst I'd go along with Thelb's explanation as a good "starter kit", there are some obvious exceptions (I know, Thelb, you did say "Usually" ;)). One such is travel (already mentioned by MQ): stress not on the last syllable.

    However, combat does meet all the 'requirements', so the normal form in BE (and seemingly from MuttQuad's post, sometimes in AE :thumbsup:) would be combatting.

    Ws:)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I have my spelling checker set to BrE, but it still puts the wriggly line under combatting. I think many people want to double the <t> because although the stress is on the first syllable, the second syllable receives secondary stress and the vowel is not reduced (we say 'kɒmbæt rather than 'kɒmbət). Other words that have this spondee stress pattern are format and kidnap​.
     

    Thelb4

    Senior Member
    UK English
    My problem with "combating" is that it looks like it should be pronounced "com-BAYT-ing", rather than "COM-bat-ing" or "com-BAT-ing".
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I'm 100% with Thelb on that one : combating would be like abating, debating, rebating, ... !
    I have my spelling checker set to BrE, but it still puts the wriggly line under combatting. [...]
    Indeed, nat, a perfect example of what I said:
    [...] I find the MS spellcheck is often inconsistent and rather unreliable, so I'd take those wavy red lines with a pinch of salt (or just switch them off!). [...]
    There are many other examples. I get the impression that MS took their AE dictionary, then modified it for the 15 others by changing a few things they happened to have heard of! :eek:
    [...] although the stress is on the first syllable, the second syllable receives secondary stress and the vowel is not reduced (we say 'kɒmbæt rather than 'kɒmbət [...]
    Interesting, because although I say 'kɒmbæt for the noun, I say kɒm'bæt for the verb, with main stress on the second syllable (and no vowel reduction in the first syllable) — which is why I said it met all the 'requirements' for doubling the t. I've just done a little survey among nine colleagues (essentially BE speakers, from different regions): four say 'kɒmbæt, three say kɒm'bæt, and two put equal stress on the two syllables (that's all for the verb).

    [Edit]: So for some of us, combat is in the same group as pervert, remit, subject (change of stress from noun to verb); for some others, it's in the group with format, kidnap (no change of stress).

    Ws
    :)
     
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    callum01

    New Member
    English-English
    The rule given by Thelb4 is almost correct for Standard English (the language spoken in England often referred to as British English). The USA made a deliberate policy to not follow standard English when it broke from Britain and later Webster of Webster's dictionary dropped the double consonant under the pretence of making spelling easier.
    The additional information needed is that for it to apply the letter following the last consonant should be either an e or i for example:

    <hat> short a, <hate> long a
    <mat> short a, <mate> long a, <matte> back to short a again.
    <respect> already has a double consonant.

    callum01
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Curiously, the OED only accepts combating and combated, whereas the COED also accepts combatting and combatted. The Microsoft BE spell-checker cannot reasonably be faulted for following the advice of the OED.
     

    callum01

    New Member
    English-English
    I'm glad my post gave Julian a chuckle, however I am suprised, it is well documented and can be looked up and I never said it was in the Declaration of Independence. It led Noah Webster to overhaul the language to produce an American version to divorce it from the King's English. This is also well documented. In a World view standard English tends to be followed by countries of the old British Empire which still have English as one their national languages. Whilst other countries e.g. China and Japan seem to use American English for their translations.
    Andygc did make me re-think though and so I've done some further research although I have been familiar with the tt all my life. 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' states the following rules: monosyllables ending in -t double it before suffixes beginning with vowels if the vowel sound preceding it is short, but not if it is long, or followed by an r; pettish, cutter, but flouting, sooty, skirting. words of more than one syllable follow the rule for monosyllables if their last syllable is accented (coquettish, but repeater); but otherwise they do not double the t; discomfited, combatant, wainscoting, snippety, pilotage, balloted.
    I find this rule slightly odd in that it differs from what I was taught in the 1950s and 60s::
    i firstly it doesn't only apply to t see snippety but to any vowel consonant vowel and the additional consonant needn't be a doubling of the original.
    ii secondly it is generally only applied if the second vowel is an i or e.
    But this said in combat the first syllable is accented and so it would seem combating is the current correct spelling. Combatting would appear to be an archaic form although to me it looks correct.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    A couple of quotes from Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_Webster#Political_vision

    Slowly, edition by edition, Webster changed the spelling of words, making them "Americanized." He chose s over c in words like defense, he changed the re to er in words like center, and he dropped one of the Ls in traveler. At first he kept the u in words like colour or favour but dropped it in later editions. He also changed "tongue" to "tung"—an innovation that never caught on.

    Webster's dictionaries were a redefinition of Americanism within the context of an emergent and unstable American socio-political and cultural identity. Webster's identification of his project as a "federal language" shows his competing impulses towards regularity and innovation in historical terms.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Nat's (post 7) explanation is the one that works for me....

    The 'rules' for doubling consonants are largely stress-related (leaving aside the BrE habit of doubling "l" regardless of stress, which N Webster quite logically reacted against:).)

    I find that my own pronunciation of the verb "combat" is unstable: sometimes the primary accent is on the second syllable, sometimes it's on the first. But even when the primary accent is on the first syllable, there is a fairly strong secondary stress on the second syllable. Which is why I would write "combatted", rather than "combated" (despite the fact that, as I type this, I see the red squiggly line under "combatted":D.)
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This one drove me crazy when I was learning to spell, because it's completely illogical. It's not a bit like the AE single "l" (traveling) and the BE double (travelling), since the "l" sound is the same whether it's single or double.

    The "bat" in "combat" is the same "bat" as in baseball, and that fellow at the plate is batting, not "bating". Otherwise, what he's doing would have a long "a", as in hating. The "a" sound in combat doesn't change when we add "-ing", so there is no earthly reason it hasn't got two t's and I think we actually ought to change it.
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    Doesn't it double in order to keep the syllable "closed" (and the sound "short")? there is some rule about that...no? :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm glad my post gave Julian a chuckle, however I am suprised, it is well documented and can be looked up and I never said it was in the Declaration of Independence. It led Noah Webster to overhaul the language to produce an American version to divorce it from the King's English.
    I knew Webster decided a lot of things for himself but was unaware of the political nature of his motivation with respect to language (Thanks to wandle for the link). In any case, if you had said "Webster made a deliberate policy to ..." rather than "The USA made a policy..." it would not have provoked my chuckle or the remark.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] But this said in combat the first syllable is accented [...]
    ... except when it isn't! ... for example when said by me or 33% of my sampled colleagues, who stress the second syllable (see post #9); or by Loob when the mood takes her ;) (post #16). Then there are the 22% who stress both syllables equally (post #9).

    Ws:)
     

    alphasun

    New Member
    English
    Callum01, I note the impressive statistics,but what size was the sample? Surely the mainstream pronunciation of 'combat' on both sides of the Atlantic is to accentuate the first syllable. This means that in UK (Standard) English the spelling 'combating' is correct, as per the OED (which I use as the standard, because it's the nearest thing English has to a standard). Individual speakers may have their way with those three syllables, but there is a rationale for the single t.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... Surely the mainstream pronunciation of 'combat' on both sides of the Atlantic is to accentuate the first syllable. This means that in UK (Standard) English the spelling 'combating' is correct, as per the OED (which I use as the standard, because it's the nearest thing English has to a standard). ...
    Hi alphasun

    I'm not sure the OED backs you up;).

    All the OED's citations for the -ING form do indeed have a single <t>. But the most recent one dates from 1870, and the entry as a whole is labelled "has not yet been fully updated (first published 1891)".

    And the OED gives three pronunciations for the verb combat, two with first-syllable stress and one with second-syllable stress: /ˈkɒmbat/ /ˈkʌmbat/ /kəmˈbat/ .
     
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