Reasons for Silent Final E's

There is a common myth in English that many of the silent final E's were once pronounced. In reality more than 98% of silent final E's fulfill a purpose within the language and were added either as a diacritic marker or to serve a linguistic or grammatical purpose.

The eight most common reasons for a silent final E were never pronounced.

  1. The vowel sound changes because of the E. In this situation the E is acting as a diacritic marker denoting that the vowel sound is long. tape, ripe, robe.
  2. A silent final E is added to prevent words from ending in V and U. have, mauve, intuitive
  3. The silent final E is acting as a diacritic mark that softens a C to /s/ and the G to /j/. lice, force, large, marriage
  4. Because every syllable must have a written vowel words ending with an /l/ sound (and an /r/ in British English) will add a silent final E for the syllable. This is because though /l/ and /r/ are blocked sounds, and therefore consonants, they share properties of a vowel in that they can be sustained and controlled for volume. title, apple, waffle, centre, fibre
  5. Singular nouns in English add a silent final E as a grammatical marker to prevent them from looking plural. purse, purchase, house And plural verbs add a silent final E to keep them from appearing singular. tease, please, amuse
  6. A few very small words add a silent final E simply to make them longer, as nouns and verbs in English typically have three or more letters. awe, owe, ewe
  7. Silent final E's are used to denote a voiced /TH/ sound as in breathe, teethe, and clothe as opposed to the unvoiced /th/ sound as in breath, teeth, and cloth.
  8. Sometimes a silent final E is added to distinguish two homophones. or - ore, teas - tease
  9. And finally, yes a very few words have a silent final E that may have been pronounced in times past, such as done, come, and giraffe.

Once you know all the reasons for a silent final E, you will find that very few fall into the final category and more than 98% of silent final E's fulfill a logical job within the word.

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