Teaching Silent Final E: The V-C-G-U Rule

Silent E Rule 2 with Shurley English.jpg

In Part 1 for Silent Final E, I discussed how Rule 1, The Split Vowel Spelling Rule, can ease students into the concept of a silent final e that makes a middle vowel sound long. This installment will further explain why many English words end with the silent final e—but for a different reason that is easy for kids to recognize.

One of the attributes I love about words is that they come into use in English from far and wide. They come into use from other countries and other times in history. Sometimes the remnants remain intact, particularly when it comes to spelling the words. For this reason, it helps kids to know that there are several groups of words that follow an easy to recall pattern. I call this Rule 2, The V-C-G-U Rule. You see, these four letters will not stand by themselves at the end of words that originally derive from English. Notice, I said “words that derive from English.” This is another way of saying that words from English will not naturally end in one of these four consonants. They won’t stand alone at the end of English words; instead, they will be followed by a silent final e. Take a look at this short list:

Silent Final E with Shurley English Rule 2.png

You may have noticed that I placed the phrase short i in parentheses after the word live. Because live can also be pronounced with a Long I sound, I needed to clarify it. If the word were pronounce with the Long I sound, then we would be referring back to Rule 1, The Split Vowel Spelling Rule. Once again, teaching like this provides logical, systematic explanations for the wonderful—but quirky—thing we call the English Language.

In each of the words listed, if the e WAS NOT THERE, it would leave a V, a C, a G, or a U, standing there—all alone—at the end of a word. It just isn’t supposed to happen! If it DOES happen, then students have a baseline of understanding that the particular word seems like an exception…well, it is—sort of. If you see that a word is ending in a V, C, G, or U and is NOT followed by an e, then we know something important about that word—it did not derive originally from English. It came to us from some other language. This becomes very important information, especially for young students who are trying to wade through spelling issues.

Next time, I will introduce you to Rule 3 for Silent Final E. It’s called Rule 3, The –le Ending Rule. Stay tuned!

(This post is part of a series on Silent Final E. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Comment /Source

David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.