Final consonant doubling in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

As you surely know, the final consonant of some verbs gets doubled when the suffix -ing or -ed is added, e.g.

stop: stopping, stopped
cram: cramming, crammed

In other cases, it is not doubled:

visit: visiting, visited
shift: shifting, shifted

The rule governing the doubling of the final consonant is actually quite simple. If a verb has just one syllable and ends with exactly one vowel followed by one consonant (except “w”, “x”, and “y”, which we will explain below), the consonant is doubled:

rob: robbing, robbed
sit: sitting, (past tense: sat)
beg: begging, begged
hum: humming, hummed

If there are two vowels or two consonants at the end, no doubling occurs:

read: reading, (past tense: read)
coat: coating, coated
bark: barking, barked
fill: filling, filled

This applies also to “oo” and “ee”:

cook: cooking, cooked
seed: seeding, seeded

Similarly, if a verb ends with a silent “e”, do not double the preceding consonant:

take: taking, (past tense: took)
come: coming, (past tense: came)
hope: hoping, hoped
game: gaming, gamed

The letters “w” and “y” are never doubled (they act as vowels in this context, pronounced /ʊ/ and /ɪ/, respectively):

snow: snowing, snowed
stay: staying, stayed

Similarly, the letter “x” is never doubled, because it represents two consonants “ks”:

box: boxing, boxed
vex: vexing, vexed

Words beginning with “qu” may seem like an exception to the rule, but “qu” is actually pronounced as “kw”, i.e. as two consonants, which does not prevent the following vowel from doubling:

quiz: quizzing, quizzed (think of “kwiz”)
quit: quitting (past tense is usually just “quit”)

The rule can be summarized as:

One vowel + one consonant ⇒ doubling
(in monosyllabic words; except -w, -x, -y)

How does the rule apply to polysyllabic words? I will describe all the details in another article. In the meantime, you can check out my book, which describes all the rules and exceptions.

This article was based on my guide to irregular verbs in English, which deals with many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?