What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Cock-a-doodle-do! Day 2.

Many Spanish students learn the spelling rule ‘gallina, huevo, tortilla’ to remember the order of letters in words such as light, fight, bright, sight etc.  It’s a great little mnemonic, but as we progress we need to recognise where it works and where it doesn’t.  If we take a look at those words, the ‘gh’ does not make a sound, but it makes the vowel change from a weak to a strong sound. The ‘t’ is sounded at the end of the word.

Compare with words such as length and strength.  Here we have made an omelette without breaking an egg.  What we need to remember is that this type of word is the noun form of the adjective. Strong- strength and long- length. As the adjective ends with ‘g’, this is retained in spelling and sound, and the ‘th’ is added to finish the transformation into a noun.

The ‘th’ ending is a common one for nouns describing qualities:

  • long- length
  • strong- strength
  • wide-width
  • broad- breadth

Nevertheless, ‘height’ and ‘weight’ have a foot in both camps. They follow the ‘ght’ pattern so only the ‘t’ is sounded, yet they are similar to the qualities we’ve just looked at. What’s more ‘height’ is pronounced /haɪt/, whereas ‘weight’ is pronounced /weɪt/. Sorry!


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” – Ken Blanchard.

Writing is often thought of as one of the tasks that you can just get on with on your own, yet it can actually be quite daunting as there are so many things to take into consideration, especially in exam conditions.  Therefore, feedback is essential.  We can’t reach perfection overnight (basically because it doesn’t exist), but we can be constantly improving.  So, after a bit of a hiatus, I’m back with some ways to tidy up and improve our written tasks.  I’ll be giving you a daily dose of fresh feedback for 7 days to clear up doubts relating to spelling, confusing words and how to upgrade certain sentences in a natural way.

So let’s start with day one. Take a look at the words with some bold highlighting.  Different spelling, exactly the same pronunciation though.  Why? Languages are not something that sprung up one day, rather they are the amalgamation of other languages and have always influenced each other. These different endings very much depend on the Latin root.

However, the general rule is simple. Use -cial after a vowel (exceptions: commercial, financial, pronvincial) and -tial after a consonant (exceptions: initial, spatial).  The last exception there is actually just an alternative spelling.

Ever been in a quandry as to whether you should use the adverb especially or specially? It’s a tricky one as their meaning can overlap.  Settle any doubts you might have here: What’s the difference between especially and specially?