Spelling Latin endings

Words with Latin endings can be confusing to spell. To get a handle on them, I like to organise them into groups:

“sh” sound Latin endings

  • Many, many words have the sound “sh” spelt “ti” as in “action”, “cautious” and “patient”.
  • Some others are spelt with “ci” as in “special”, “magician” and “vicious”.
  • A third group are spelt with “si” as n “mansion”, “tension” and “extension”.
  • A fourth group are spelt with “ssi” as in “mission”, “passion” and “discussion”.

Some spelling reformers would have us spell all these words with “sh” – “acshon”, “speshal”, “manshon”, “mishon” etc, like rappers do. But I hope this table makes their current spellings seem more logical:

ti ci ssi si

act-action

opt-option

quest-question

collect-collection

construct-construction

complete-completion

destruct-destruction

devote-devotion

direct-direction

elect-election

exhibit-exhibition

emote-emotion

inert-inertia

infect-infectious

invent-invention

object-objection

predict-prediction

protect-protection

react-reaction

select-selection

associate-association

communicate-communication

contribute-contribution

create-creation

distribute-distribution

generate-generation

institute-institution

investigate-investigation

operate-operation

populate-population

promote-promotion

relate-relation

situate-situation

face-facial

grace-gracious

race-racial

clinic-clinician

commerce-commercial

finance-financial

magic-magician

mathematic-mathematician

music-musician

office-official

optic-optician

suffice-sufficient

tactic-tactician

artifice-artificial

politic-politician

obstetric-obstetrician

paediatric-paediatrician

province-provincial

prejudice-prejudicial

sacrifice-sacrificial

aggress-aggression

compress-compression

concuss-concussion

confess-confession

depress-depression

digress-digression

discuss-discussion

express-expression

impress-impression

obsess-obsession

oppress-oppression

possess-possession

process-procession

profess-profession

progress-progression

regress-regression

repossess-repossession

repress-repression

suppress-suppression

transgress-transgression

ascend-ascension

condescend-condescension

expand-expansion

extend-extension

pretend-pretension

suspend-suspension

apprehend-apprehension

collude-collusion

comprehend-comprehension

conclude-conclusion

decide-decision

deride-derision

divide-division

erode-erosion

evade-evasion

exclude-exclusion

explode-explosion

include-inclusion

intrude-intrusion

invade-invasion

provide-provision

seclude-seclusion

It’s important to remember that these are common patterns, not reliable rules. Tell me any spelling rule and I’ll tell you about its exceptions. In this case, we also have substance-substantial, licence-licentious, permit-permission and recede-recession.

However, patterns are useful things to learn, to get your head around the majority of words. Once you have the main patterns down pat (so to speak) the words that don’t fit these patterns stand out, and are also easier to learn in small groups.

To teach “sh” sound Latin suffixes, I’d rule up my whiteboard into four columns just like the table above, with the same headings (ti, ci, si, ssi).

Next, I’d write lots of words containing these spellings on little bits of paper or card (maybe post-it notes, which can be stuck under the headings on the board) and get the student(s) to sort them into each of the categories. I’d choose words the students are likely to know from the lists on this website, and you can do this too:

Once you have all the words grouped in categories on the board, ask the students to rule these four columns up on their own page, and write the words down, saying each sound as they write it. They should always say the unstressed vowels as they are spelt e.g. “tensiOn” but “patiEnt” and “magiciAn”.

If you have learners in the class who finish well ahead of the others, and you don’t have any pencils needing sharpening or errands needing to be run, ask them to ponder a mixture of additional words with the following spellings:

  • “ce” as in “cetacean”, “crustacean” and “herbaceous” – click here for more,
  • “sci” as in “conscious” and “luscious”
  • “xi” as in “anxious”, “complexion” and “obnoxious” – click here for more.
  • “shi” as in “cushion” and “fashion”

They might need to make some new headings over the page, and write extra lists.

“zh” sound Latin endings

There are also a few words in English which have “si” representing the sound “zh”, as in “Asia”, “vision” and “decision”.

This sound can also be represented with just an “s” as in “treasure”, “exposure” and “usual”.

It’s possible to do a similar sorting activity with these words, perhaps throwing in the “ge” spelling of this sound, and maybe a few outliers like “seizure” and “equation”. Click here for all the different ways this French sound is spelt in English.

These are all middle or ending spellings, as we don’t put the sound “zh” at the start of words in English, though it’s common in French (think “gendarme”, “jardin” and “Je suis un rockstar”).

“ch” sound Latin endings

Another very common Latin ending is “-ture”, as in “did you capture a picture of the vulture?”, which in Australian English is nowadays pronounced “chuh”. This probably makes the Samuel Johnson with no “t” spin in his grave, but there you go, language is dynamic. If we went around saying the “ture” to rhyme with “pure” these days, other people would think we had tickets on ourselves.

However, when they are spelling words with this ending, I like to encourage learners to say these words in their “spelling voices” in the way that Dr Johnson probably did, with a “t” not a “ch”, and rhyming with “pure” and “cure”.

Click here for a list of words with this spelling pattern.

“j” sound Latin endings

A few words are spelt with a “gi” for the sound “j”, as in “region”, “contagious” and “hemiplegia”.

Click here if you want a list.

I think that’s the main Latin endings covered, but if you know of others, or know of better ways to teach these, I’d be very interested to hear about them.

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2 thoughts on “Spelling Latin endings

  1. Pingback: How can I get my child’s literacy problem taken more seriously at school? | Spelfabet

  2. Joyce

    Thanks for this helpful blog post. I was doing a word sort on the ti-and si- variations of the /sh/, and one of the students came up with “fashion,” sending me online to do a bit a research on its origins and the trajectory that landed fashion with an sh instead of the more predictable ti. And now cushion, too! They will be excited to see a second example!

    Reply

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