focusing or focussing?

helen n

New Member
UK English
Which is correct? Are both suddenly OK to use? I would always use focusing, but my computer does not correct focussing. Is this something that has crept in from American English or vice versa??
Thanks if anyone can answer this for me!
 
  • Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    Welcome, Helen

    Even the (Compact) Oxford English Dictionary gives
    • verb (focused, focusing or focussed, focussing)
    so it would appear it's a matter of personal preference.

    Like you I'd always go, though, for focused myself - because that agrees with the usual stress-based rule (enter - entered versus refer - referred, etc.)

    F
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Just informationally, I have never seen the word spelled as focussing. That looks very strange to me. Focusing looks better to me and focused, not focussed.
     

    quehuong

    Senior Member
    Vietnam, Vietnamese
    Noun: focus and focuses and focussing

    Verb: focus, focuses or focusses, focusing or focussing, focused or focussed.

    I've used both forms, but when I'm more conscious with spelling then I use the ones with the extra s. Don't exactly know why when both forms are correct. I guess I just want to conform to the rule of consonant-vowel-consonant + the last consonant + the verb inflection(s).
     

    Kimosa

    New Member
    English-USA
    Actually I think it's American English that has created this shortcut spelling. In my mind the correct spelling is "focussing" and I learned to read over 40 years ago, so the single "s" is newer.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In this case, it is BrE that allows the option of -ss- or -s-. AmE only allows -s-. Similarly, you can write biassed or biased.
     

    sille

    New Member
    English - UK
    There is actually a spelling rule for this.
    In British English when a 2 syllable word has the accent on the second syllable and the word ends in one vowel and one consonant (as in focus / travel etc), you must double the last consonant. As far as I am aware American English doesn't apply this rule which is why it uses focusing / traveling and so on.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There is actually a spelling rule for this.
    In British English when a 2 syllable word has the accent on the second syllable and the word ends in one vowel and one consonant (as in focus / travel etc), you must double the last consonant. As far as I am aware American English doesn't apply this rule which is why it uses focusing / traveling and so on.
    I can't comment on this "rule" but it seems to me that the stress in "focus" is on the first syllable, not the second.

    I have always written "focused", for what it is worth.
     

    sille

    New Member
    English - UK
    I can't comment on this "rule" but it seems to me that the stress in "focus" is on the first syllable, not the second.

    I have always written "focused", for what it is worth.
    This is a vaild spelling/phonetic rule, honest :)!
    Most 2 syllable words when they are nouns or adjectives have the stress on the first syllable, but the stress usually moves to the second syllable when the word becomes a verb.
    Unfortunately I don't have a dictionary to hand to confirm if this is the case with "focus" :eek:.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    There is actually a spelling rule for this.
    In British English when a 2 syllable word has the accent on the second syllable and the word ends in one vowel and one consonant (as in focus / travel etc), you must double the last consonant. As far as I am aware American English doesn't apply this rule which is why it uses focusing / traveling and so on.
    Hi sille

    "Focusing" has the stress on the first syllable, so we don't - or rather shouldn't - double the 's'. As far as I know the "rule" is the same in BrE and AmE, except that BrE doubles an 'l' regardless of where the stress is: travel (stress on first syllable)> travelled BrE, traveled Ame.

    PS: Good to see you posting after several months' membership of the forums: welcome:).
     
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is a vaild spelling/phonetic rule, honest :)!
    Most 2 syllable words when they are nouns or adjectives have the stress on the first syllable, but the stress usually moves to the second syllable when the word becomes a verb.
    Unfortunately I don't have a dictionary to hand to confirm if this is the case with "focus" :eek:.
    Well, my dictionary does not indicate that the verb is pronounced differently from the noun. The second syllable is a schwa, and English does not admit schwas in stressed syllables. I have never heard anyone give second-syllable stress to the verb "focus".
     

    krispolard

    New Member
    English - UK
    Hi everyone,
    there is a rule about stressed syllables, but it doesn't apply in this case.
    That is the rule that makes us write opening with one 'n' (because stress is on the 'oh' part at the beginning), but beginning with double 'n' (begause stress is on the 'gin' part (second syllable))
    However, in British English we spell two syllable verbs ending in 'l' or 'r' with a double letter in gerund or regular past simple or past participle, even if stress is on the first syllable: travelling, travelled, cancelling, cancelled, referring, referred, preferring, preferred.
    In the same way we write 'focussing' and 'focussed,' although I can't think of any other two syllable verbs ending in single 's' to make a more general rule of it!
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I do use 'focussing', and 'focussed' and I stress the first syllable. (And I suppose I do it because I can! :D) However, 'referring', 'preferring', etc receive second-syllable stress for me.
     

    krispolard

    New Member
    English - UK
    - sillie,
    some nouns change stress to the second syllable when they become verbs, like desert and record, but I think that most don't, like bother, bundle, wonder, struggle, rumble, thunder, etc., etc.
     

    krispolard

    New Member
    English - UK
    I do use 'focussing', and 'focussed' and I stress the first syllable. (And I suppose I do it because I can! :D) However, 'referring', 'preferring', etc receive second-syllable stress for me.
    Sorry, yes, you're quite right about refer and prefer.
    The same would also apply to occur and concur.
    I guess an example I could have used for the same spelling with first syllable stress could be offer - offerring, offerred.
    Thanks for pointing this out :)
     

    krispolard

    New Member
    English - UK
    I'd write those as offering and offered, Kris:).
    Yes, so would many others, even in the UK, but I think this is something that has come from America, like prefered, traveling and focused.

    American English, through the mass media, has a huge effect on British English, so much so that a billion has been devalued by a power of 1000 over the last few decades! In Latin languages it still means a million million, as it used to in English, but now, even on the BBC, thanks to American English, it is only a thousand million (which Latin languages usually call a 'milliard').
     

    Krollaf

    New Member
    French - France
    I am surprised that no one has mentioned the pronunciation of the 's', which is like 'nonplussed' rather than 'amused', hence my inclination to write 'focussed'!
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I am surprised that no one has mentioned the pronunciation of the 's', which is like 'nonplussed' rather than 'amused', hence my inclination to write 'focussed'!
    The pronunciation of the 's' in 'amuse' is due to the presence of the final 'e'. And, precisely because of the final 'e', 'amuse' does not form part of the discussion about doubling the final consonant.
     

    hjkhjk

    New Member
    English - USA
    Thanks for this most knowledgeable and comprehensive discussion. I have been struggling for the better part of a day to find an authoritative, repeatable rule for doubling the final consonant of an English word when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel. In particular, the troublesome focus. This thread has given me the ammo I need. Cheers! HJK
     

    NotesTracker

    New Member
    English (Australian variant)
    I speak the Australian variant of English, and Down Under we tend to use Bristish English spelling but are fully cognizant of US spellings.

    In this particullar case, it's not a matter of where the stress. It's all to do with whether or not the "s" sound is sibilant (as with a hissing snake) or like the "z" sound in words like "amaze" and "zoo" to pick a couple.

    It will come to you as you pronounce words such as "hosing" or "closing" versus "tossing" or "flossing" where the intention of the "ss" spelling is to indicate that the sound is sibilant. Aussies and Brits are taught to use the "ss" spelling. Ah, the fun of becoming attuned to the different spellings and sounds of English language variants and dialects.

    Look up "sibilant" in Wikipedia or elsewhere.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In this particullar case, it's not a matter of where the stress. It's all to do with whether or not the "s" sound is sibilant (as with a hissing snake) or like the "z" sound in words like "amaze" and "zoo" to pick a couple.
    How does that work with "focussing" and "focusing", both of which are pronounced the same, and not, in my experience, with the "z" sound of "hosing"? The OED observes:
    Against the broad rule that final consonants are not doubled after short unstressed vowels, inflected forms with -ss- are attested, especially in British English, but are nonetheless considerably rarer in current usage than forms without doubled final consonant; in the British National Corpus, the ratio of -s- forms to -ss- forms is about nine to one. P. Peters Cambridge Guide Eng. Usage (2004) notes that in a recent language usage survey in the United Kingdom, over 75% of respondents endorsed single-s inflected forms.
    This ngram also makes the point focussed,focused,focussing,focusing in British English.

    I do not use the "ss" spelling, and I was not taught to do so.
     

    NotesTracker

    New Member
    English (Australian variant)
    Okay, okay, I will throw in the towel at this point! It's all getting too messy for me. I suppose that there's a fair degree of pointlessness (or should that be "pointlesnes"?) in being too pedantic. The only important thing is to get the message across.
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    I’d say ‘focussed’, personally, but either is acceptable in the UK. My parents would disagree and say ‘focused’, so it can’t even be put down to a difference between BE and AE!
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I think the problem here is that there are very few verbs ending with consonant-vowel-s that we can study in order to extract a rule. I can only say that to me "focussed" would sound like "discussed".

    It is generally considered that doubling the final "s" when forming the plural is a mistake, as in "busses" or "gasses". No one thinks that with a single "s" "buses" would rhyme with "amuses" or "gases" would rhyme with "erases".

    Still, let's not lose sleep over it... Happy New Year everyone!
     

    Reader41

    New Member
    American English
    As a former elementary school teacher in the USA, I taught my pupils that if a 1-syllable word ends with a single vowel and single consonant, you double the last consonant before adding ed or ing. If a 2-syllable word ends with a single vowel and single consonant, you double the consonant if the accent is on the second syllable. So, for example, the word ban would be banned/banning; the word gab would be gabbed/gabbing.

    If a 2-syllable word ends with the one vowel-one consonant pattern, you double the final consonant only if the second syllable is accented. For example, regret would be regretted/regretting and refer would be referred/referring. But if the accent is on the first syllable, you do not double the final consonant. Examples: cancel becomes canceled/canceling and budget becomes budgeted/budgeting.

    This is learned in the lower grades and in my experience holds well for most writing even as a senior citizen. Of course, I recognize that alternate spellings are also considered correct at times. I usually check a dictionary.
     

    dwinet

    New Member
    United States
    The problem is we really have two rules at play here: the first rule is that if the final syllable is unstressed there is no need to double the final consonant in the United States. The second rule, which is in conflict with the first, says that an s between two vowels is pronounced as a z and that as a consequence in order to preserve the s sound one must double the consonant.. Thus there is a conflict between the two rules and the British have chosen to go one way while the Yanks the other. Typical! Afterthought: with buses and gases clearly the whole rulebook has been thrown out the window! Not to mention arcing, my personal favorite! All this clearly demonstrates that language is not math.
     
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    bennymix

    Senior Member
    There is actually a spelling rule for this.
    In British English when a 2 syllable word has the accent on the second syllable and the word ends in one vowel and one consonant (as in focus / travel etc), you must double the last consonant. As far as I am aware American English doesn't apply this rule which is why it uses focusing / traveling and so on.
    We could put it more strongly as to "doesn't apply": we have our own rule: Where the accent does NOT fall on the (original, multisyllable word's) final syllable (...vowel+consonant), there is simply no need to double that consonant; there is no point to it. Don't do it. :)
     
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    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    We could put it more strongly as to "doesn't apply": we have our own rule: Where the accent does NOT fall on the (original, multisyllable word's) final syllable (...vowel+consonant). there is simply no need to double that consonant; there is no point to it. Don't do it. :)
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The problem is we really have two rules at play here: the first rule is that if the final syllable is unstressed there is no need to double the final consonant in the United States. The second rule, which is in conflict with the first, says that an s between two vowels is pronounced as a z and that as a consequence in order to preserve the s sound one must double the consonant.. Thus there is a conflict between the two rules and the British have chosen to go one way while the Yanks the other. Typical! Afterthought: with buses and gases clearly the whole rulebook has been thrown out the window! Not to mention arcing, my personal favorite! All this clearly demonstrates that language is not math.
    Promise, premise, divisive, elusive - there are quite a few exceptions to the rule you cite :)
    In any case, the focused, focussed etc preference of one s was not the original preference, even in AE, so rules change and probably at different speeds for different examples.
    Gasses has never been popular while busses was originally favoured over buses in AE more than in BE.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Where the accent does NOT fall on the (original, multisyllable word's) final syllable (...vowel+consonant). there is simply no need to double that consonant; there is no point to it. Don't do it. :)
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
    (Unless you're a speaker of BrE and the consonant is <l>. AmE is much more logical!:D)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
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