Doubling of consonants - or not

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lizmag

Member
English
Following on from the thread "traveled / travelling"

I understand that in American English you say: "She tried on two dresses and the red one "fit" her very well." In British English we say "fitted" as the past tense. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

But I'm confused about doubling the consonant in "benefitted". Is that correct or is it "benefited"? And what about "plummeted"? One "t" or two? Two "t"s look weird to me but I'd certainly never write ""fited"!
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "She tried on two dresses and the red one "fit" her very well." In British English we say "fitted" as the past tense. Please correct me if I'm wrong!
    I have heard, read and accepted as valid both versions. [Northeastern AE]

    But I'm confused about doubling the consonant in "benefitted". Is that correct or is it "benefited"? And what about "plummeted"? One "t" or two? Two "t"s look weird to me but I'd certainly never write ""fited"!
    To tell the truth, I would have gone with the 2 Ts version, but the OED contradicts my intuition: "I’m glad to see the last of that fellow,’ he muttered,..as they plummeted toward the roof."
    [It's interesting to note that "plummeting" has only one T.]
    I don't know if there are consistent rules.
     

    lizmag

    Member
    English
    Thank you to both of you. It seems that there's more flexibility in this area of spelling than I thought, which is a relief!
     

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    The rule given in some grammar books is "the 1-1-1 rule" --
    If the word has 1 syllable, 1 central vowel, and 1 consonant after the vowel, the final consonant is doubled when certain suffixes are added (e.g. -er, -est, -ed, -ing.)

    So, 'red' meets the rule and becomes 'redder',
    'bed' becomes 'bedding',
    'fat' becomes 'fatter / fattest'
    and 'slim' becomes 'slimmer / slimmest' ((note: we didn't say anything about how many consonants BEFORE the vowel ;) ),

    but 'cold' has two consonants after the vowel, so the d is not doubled,
    and 'cook' has two central vowels so the k is not doubled.
    That's why 'plummet', with two syllables, doesn't double its 't'.

    A word of caution -- this so-called 'rule' is really nothing more than a guide-line because there are MANY EXCEPTIONS -- (e.g. w, x, y, & z are never doubled when adding -er, ed, -ing, regardless of what the 'rule' says.)

    Also, the 'rule' only applies to suffixes that start with a vowel ( -er, -est, -ed, -ing) and not to suffixes that start with a consonant ( -ness, -ly).

    So, in summary, yes, there are some guide-lines, but, yes, they are complicated enough to become frustrating. ;)



    Oh, and there are also differences between BrE and AmE, like travelled/traveled.
    .
     
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