There comes a time in every student's life when a teacher says that the letter "i" always comes before the letter "e," except after "c." There's also a point in every student's life when he or she discovers a word that doesn't follow the rule, and the teacher says it's an "exception." Then comes a point when the student learns there are so many exceptions to the rule that the rule isn't actually a rule.
Hopefully by that point you've learned the difference between the sounds and can discern when to use "i" before "e" and vice versa, but even if you have, some words are rebels and can't be boxed in by rules. The only way to know how to spell some words is memorization, and that's the beauty of the English language for you. The "i/e" letter combination has been making life more difficult since spelling first began, and it's not going to make things any easier here. There are 20 vowel sounds in the English language, and the "i/e" or "e/i" combination is a gliding sound that changes based on the letters that surround it. The good news is studies have shown "i" comes before "e" in about 75% of all words in the English language. The bad news is that "i" also comes before "e" after "c" in about 75% of all words in the English language, so the second half of the rule is a lie. With that being said, good luck!
Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Michael Irvin all played what position in the NFL?
The "ei" combo here forms a long "e" sound after the letter "c." An "ie" combo after the letter "c" would form a long "e" and then a short "e" sound so the word would be pronounced ra-see-ev-er instead of ra-see-ver.
What is the preferred mode of transportation for Santa Claus and his reindeer?
Santa rides around in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. "Sleigh" and "eight" and "reindeer" all feature "e" before "i" without a "c" because the combination is used to produce a long "a" sound. Using an "i" before "e" in this instance would produce a long "i" sound like high or nigh.
In 2014, President Barack Obama came under fire for wearing a suit of what color?
The "ei" combo here is used to create a long "a" sound in the word "beige." In 2014, President Obama appeared for a press conference wearing a beige suit instead of the usual dark blue or black suit. According to some, this action put the country's national security at risk. No, they really thought that.
Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Geronimo were Native American leaders who were known as?
Here we have a long "e" sound produced by the "ie" combination opposed to the "ei" combination used to produce the long "e" sound in "receiver." That's because the "ie" in "chiefs" appears after a "ch" not a "c."
Which of these equations is correct: 2+2 = 3 or 2+2 = 5?
The "ei" combination in the word "neither" can be used to produce either a long "i" or long "e" sound, depending on preference. For words that can be pronounced both ways, use "ei" before "c." Words with one pronunciation usually use "i" before "e."
Your mother's sister is known as your aunt. What is your sister's daughter known as?
Niece can only be pronounced one way (long e) so it uses "i" before "e." If the word had an alternate long "i" pronunciation, it would feature "e" before "i" like in "neither" or "either." The daughter of your brother, sister or sibling-in-law is known as your niece.
Managers are responsible for ensuring a store runs smoothly. Who is responsible for working the cash register?
The word cashier features the suffix "ier," which is a French variant of the "er" suffix that is used to individualize adjectives, nouns and verbs like six-footer, New Yorker or employer. The French variant forms words like cashier, brigadier or courier.
Few stores will let you return an item without what proof of purchase?
Here, the "ei" combo is used to produce a long "e" sound after "c" like in "receiver." The word is pronounced re-seet. It is a proof of purchase and is also used in slang speak to mean proof of wrongdoing or embarrassment.
When taking a left turn in a car, one must always ________ to oncoming traffic
If you need to produce just a long "e" sound before a consonant, follow the rule. Drivers for the delivery company UPS don't turn left since yielding takes so long. Some routes are lengthened because of this, but the company says it optimizes speed and prevents accidents.
If you've secretly done something wrong, you might walk around consumed by a guilty what?
The easiest way to remember how to spell conscience is to split it up into two words (con + science) but you have to remember it is different from conscious. The "i before e except after c" rule doesn't work here given all the letter combinations that produce unique sounds.
A con man found guilty of defrauding investors will be ordered to do what with the money?
This is a word that doesn't follow the rule. The "ei" combo is used to create a schwa or "uh" sound, which is marked by an upside down "e" in pronunciation guides. To forfeit means to lose something as a penalty. As a noun it defines a penalty.
A fox in the hen house is someone who does what to others?
The long "e" sound after the letter "c" is designated with an "ei" combo more often than not, like in "receiver" and "receipt." To deceive someone is to make them believe something that is untrue. A fox gets into the hen house by using deception.
The acronym BFF stands for what?
BFF stands for best friend forever, and the acronym rose in popularity during the mid-'90s even though the concept of a best friend has been around forever. The New Oxford American Dictionary listed the acronym in 2010.
A magician who is really good at card tricks is known for being really good at what?
This is confusing because the "ei" combination produces a long "i" sound and if you just remove the "sl" it will produce a long "a" sound, as in "eight." Slight is also a word and is pronounced the same way but it means small.
Scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush is an ________ way to clean the house.
Here's another example of letter combinations producing such unique sounds that the "i before e" rule can be thrown out the window. Efficiency is the state of achieving maximum productivity. Inefficiency is the opposite.
Someone who lives in a city is a resident. Someone who lives in a country is a citizen. What is a person from another country called?
The "ei" combo creates a schwa pronounced "uh" but once you remove the "fo" it produces a long "a" sound, as in reign. These are the type of rules that make foreigners say English is a complicated language.
One of the most important moments of the American Revolution was when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the Continental Army at the ________ of Yorktown.
The Siege of Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolution and essentially ended the war. Over the course of three weeks, George Washington surrounded Yorktown with American and French troops and forced the British to surrender.
If you want to calculate the volume of a rectangular box, you must multiply length by width by what?
The combo here produces a long "i" sound and once the "h" is removed it produces a long "a" sound. The word height is pronounced like hight or hite. Hight is an archaic word and Hite is a South Korean beer brand.
The opposite of normal is abnormal, unusual or this five-letter word.
Weird is an adjective describing something that is uncanny or unusual. Wierd is not a word but is one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language. Weir is a word and it defines a river dam and is pronounced similar to weird.
Human beings are biologically classified as Homo Sapiens. Homo falls under the genus rank. What rank does Sapiens fall under?
The word species is singular and plural. A species is described as the largest group of organisms where two members can sexually reproduce. Tigers are part of the Tigris species and lions are part of the Leo species but they can sexually reproduce with each other. Their offspring are tigons and ligers.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches and what?
The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights and were all proposed and ratified at the same time. The Fourth Amendment prohibits authorities from unlawfully searching and seizing property.
Another word for memo is?
Brief is a noun, verb and adjective and has many meanings from underwear to memos to time spans. To brief someone on a topic means to thoroughly explain it to them. Breif is not a word in English.
Cleopatra VII is known as the last pharaoh of what civilization?
The earliest Egyptian pharaohs began ruling around 3200 BC, and from about 300 BC to 30 BC, the Ptolemaic dynasty held the throne. Cleopatra VII, along with her father, brother, brother-husband and son, ruled as last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. The Roman Empire took over in 30 BC.
J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Henry Wells and William Fargo all worked as what type of money manager?
A financier is someone who manages large amounts of money for others. John Pierpont Morgan helped form behemoths AT&T and General Electric, and his legacy lives on today, but historians argue that he was "only" worth $118 million.
A nation's wealth and resources are known as its economy. What are a nation's people and community known as?
Society is the people, places, politics and government that make up a country. Humans create society and society then dictates how humans live. A complex society with social rungs and hierarchies is a civilization.
What is the head of an Arab tribe, family or village called?
Sheik can be pronounced "sheek" or "shayk" and can be spelled several different ways and is a noun defining the leader of a tribe. It is also the title given to any male born into the royal family. Female royals are called sheikhas.
The metaphorical barrier that stops women and minorities from climbing the corporate ladder is known as what?
Women and minorities have been trying to shatter the glass ceiling forever, but the term was officially coined in 1978 by two women at Hewlett Packard and separately by a management consultant. By the mid-'80s, the term was mainstream.
An ordained minister in the Catholic Church is known as a what?
Priests are ministers within the Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican Church who have the authority to perform rites and rituals. The earliest priests and priestesses lived in Ancient Sumer. Each religion has different rules and regulations for priesthood.
A robber steals by force. A burglar steals by breaking in. What do you call someone who steals by stealth?
A thief is a person who steals, usually by stealth, and there are many ways to steal. Someone who shoplifts is a thief. Someone who points a gun at a cashier is a robber. Someone who breaks in after hours is a burglar.
The human body is made of more than 200 bones, 600 muscles and three kinds of blood vessels: arteries, capillaries and what?
Veins are vessels that carry blood to the heart, and arteries are vessels that carry blood away from the heart. Capillaries are vessels that exchange blood between arteries and vessels. All three are essential for life.
The person you see when you look in the mirror is how you ________ yourself.
It's impossible to know how others perceive you, and the closest you can get is by looking in the mirror. Perception is the way one interprets or understands something. To perceive something is to form a certain understanding of it.
Charles, Prince of Wales, is next in line to succeed the British Throne, making him the ...
Queen Elizabeth II took over the British throne at the age of 25 when her father, Charles VI, died while she was on vacation in Kenya. She is the longest reigning queen in U.K. history. Her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, will take the throne after her.
What is one of the best skills to have when being stuck in traffic?
Patience and patients both sound the same and both use the "ie" vowel sounds but mean different things. Patients are people who receive medical treatment, and patience is the ability to remain calm amid delay.
Language in the 21st century is full of acronyms, abbreviations and emojis, which are reminiscent of what ancient writing system?
The earliest forms of writing were pictographs from Ancient Sumer and hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt. Egyptian hieroglyphs consisted of more than 1,000 characters and were used until about 400 AD. Today, there are about 3,000 emojis listed in the Unicode Standard.
When you arrive late to a meeting and discover everyone else is also late, you might feel?
Relieved is an adjective that describes the moment when one no longer feels stressed or anxious. If you're running late for work and thinking of excuses in your head, you will feel really relieved when you arrive and realize everybody else is also late.
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!
Get smarter every day! Subscribe & get 1 quiz every week.
Playing quizzes is free! We send trivia questions and personality tests every week to your inbox. By clicking "Sign Up" you are agreeing to our
and confirming that you are 13 years old or over.