English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

As we know, "nod" pronounces /nɒd/ while "node" pronounces /nəʊd/ (In US style?).

So why does the extra "e" change the vocal of letter "o" entirely?

My mother language is Chinese, therefore, it seems to be little hard for me to understand the exact rules of pronunciation with respect to spelling. What resources (maybe books?) can I invoke if I'd like to precisely predict how a coined word or the one which is unfamiliar pronounce?

share|improve this question
English spelling is notoriously unpredictable. So in the end you will have to look up a word in a dictionary to make sure you pronounce it correctly. But this difference in sound between -/ɒd/ and -/əʊd/ is very common for words ending on -od and -ode, respectively, so this will help you predict the pronunciations of words such as lode, sod, code, pod, etc. Similarly, there are the pairs id/ide, ad/ade, ud/ude, and ed/ede. – Cerberus Jan 25 '13 at 5:25
US style would be /nad/ and /nod/. American /o/ has [ow] (not [əw]) as the principal stressed allophone. – John Lawler Jan 25 '13 at 5:34
Join ELL and participate to learn interesting things in English like this. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/41665/… – Kris Jan 25 '13 at 8:22
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The "extra e" (or "silent e") at the end of a word is a convention which serves as a sign that the preceding short vowel should be elongated into a long vowel. It was introduced by Richard Mulcaster in 1582 via his book Elementarie wherein he called it a "qualifying e". The Wikipedia article on the "silent e" makes for fascinating reading.

The rule is, however (and as with most aspects of English orthography), inconsistently employed. While node, side, and rate all involve long vowels, words such as love, give, and sieve do not.

Wikipedia has other pages on English spelling that might prove useful to you.

share|improve this answer
+1 Perfect, and comprehensive! – Kris Jan 25 '13 at 8:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.