i before e except after c

 Most people know the spelling rule about i before e except after c, as in the following words:

-ie-
-ei-
achieve
ceiling
belief
conceit
believe
deceit
chief
deceive
piece
perceive
thief
receipt
yield
receive
 
The rule only applies when the sound represented is ‘ee,’ however. It does not apply to words such as science or efficient, in which the -ie- combination does follow the letter c but is not pronounced ‘ee’.
 
Neither does the rule apply to any word without the ee sound, even when there is no c involved. For example:
 
-ei- (not pronounced ee) 
beige
feign
foreign
forfeit
height
neighbour
vein
weight
 
There are a few exceptions to the general i before e rule, even when the sound is ‘ee’. Examples include seize, weird, and caffeine. There is nothing for it but to learn how to spell these words, checking in a dictionary until you are sure about them.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Grammar and usage