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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’, though. It doesn’t apply to words like science or efficient, in which the –ie- combination does follow the letter c but isn’t 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)


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’s nothing for it but to learn how to spell these words, checking in a dictionary until you are sure about them.


Back to spelling.

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