Editing | Spelling Rule: Thief or Theif? Recieve or Receive?

In Ms Nora's posts on editing previously, we have seen the different types of common grammar errors to look out for. Let's move on to look at questions that test children on their spelling. These questions usually present themselves as a strange combination of letters that look foreign but sound like the actual word that is to be spelled. (e.g. aktuali --> actually).

Spelling Rule "i" before "e" except after "c" Thumbnail

Learning to spell is an essential part of English. With regards to English assessment in primary school, knowledge of spelling is clearly required for the writing components (Paper 1) and in Paper 2 as well. This is particularly so for the editing and the comprehension cloze sections.

What happens when a child sees a word and is unsure of how to spell it? Recognising how letters and parts of words sound, being able to make a link to other words which sound similar and knowing some spelling rules will be helpful in providing a more accurate answer.

Today, we will be sharing one spelling rule that has been very useful for our children in tackling some commonly misspelled words. A lot of children are confused about whether to spell words with a long /ee/ sound with 'ie' or 'ei' e.g. thief or theif? recieve or receive? There is actually a rule for these words and it is:

Spelling Rule I before E except after C

'i' before 'e' except after 'c'

Before we apply this rule, take note that the word must have a long /ee/ sound:

Next, apply the rule: 'i' before 'e' ('ie') except after 'c' ('cei'). Is there a 'c' before the long /ee/ sound?


From the table above, you can see that:

For the word 'thief', there is no 'c' before the /ee/ sound. Hence, it is spelled as 'thief'. 
For the word 'receive', there is a 'c' before the /ee/ sound. Hence, it is spelled as 'receive'.
For the word 'achieve', there is a 'c' but it is not right before the long /ee/ sound. Hence it is still spelled with the rule, 'i' before 'e': achieve. 

Exceptions to this rule

As with all rules, there are exceptions. Two of them will be: 'seize' and 'caffeine'.

Even without a 'c' before the long /ee/ sound, 'i' is not before 'e'.

Knowing this rule will help children be clearer about whether to use 'ie' or 'ei' when they are uncertain. It has helped our children in spelling those tricky words above more accurately and we hope it will help yours too!