sailing - why not double "l"?

angelene001

Senior Member
Polish
I'd like to ask about double "l" in British English.

I thought that we apply the rule of double "l" to all verbs. Then I've come across "sailing".
Why don't we double "l" in "sail" when we add "-ing"?
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You do not double the l if the vowel before it is long.
    File => filing [but fill => filling]
    Bowl => bowling
    Mail => mailing

    A vowel before a verb with ll (e.g. fill) is normally short, although there are exceptions (e.g. verbs like call).
     
    Last edited:

    angelene001

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You do not double the l if the vowel before it is long.
    File => filing [but fill => filling]
    Bowl => bowling
    Mail => mailing

    A vowel before a verb with ll (e.g. fill) is normally short, although there are exceptions (e.g. verbs like call).
    Thank you :) It explains a lot.
    I've never come across such a rule. And I've read a lot of grammar books.
     

    angelene001

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Angelene, don't bother trying to find a hard-and-fast rule on this. Even the British and Americans don't agree. Live with it, there are always exceptions. :)
    I know.
    I lived peacefully with "sailing" for many years. But the day has come when I need to ask "why":)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Fuel (two syllables) is regular, since the e is short.

    What is interesting is that US dictionaries list fuelling and fueling as well as traveling and travelling.
    Does this reflect what most people in America write?
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I read somewhere that the BE rule is that if it's a two-syllable word with the first syllable stressed, the final consonant is doubled -- hence fuelling, pencilling, traveller, jeweller, &c.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Fuel (two syllables) is regular, since the e is short.

    What is interesting is that US dictionaries list fuelling and fueling as well as traveling and travelling.
    Does this reflect what most people in America write?
    I've never seen fuelling in AmE (I would in fact consider it a misspelling), but both traveling and travelling are extremely common.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The rules for <l> are different in AmE and BrE.

    In general, in BrE, you double the <l> when the vowel before is short whether it's stressed or not. In AmE, it's only doubled when it's stressed.

    This gives us travelled, grovelled, revelled, counsellor, panellist and fuelling in BrE. (Fuel is analysed as having two syllables, the first long and the second short. This also true of biassed in BrE.) All of these usually receive single <l>s in AmE. One exception in BrE: paralleled, presumably for aesthetic reasons - the <l> has been doubled just before.

    The stress rule makes the following the same for AmE and BrE: rebelling, enrolling, annulling.

    With a long vowel, the spelling is the same for AmE and BrE: wailing, keeled, cooled. And of course no doubling when the <l> goes with another consonant letter: curling, kohled.
     
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