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Example: i before e, except after c.

Are there mnemonic devices to help remember other spelling and grammar issues? Bonus points for pointing out exceptions to the rule.

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locked by RegDwigнt Jan 5 '12 at 20:37

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"... or when sounded like "a", as in neighbor or weigh." –  mmyers Aug 20 '10 at 23:51
    
E before i, not after c, not sounding like "a": foreign, albeit, theist. I before e, after c: ancient, science, efficient. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 21 '10 at 0:32
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I think that's not what most linguists would consider a "linguistic issue", as it's just about spelling. –  Alan Hogue Aug 21 '10 at 3:45
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Well, the answers so far do focus on spelling, but the question itself is about "spelling and grammar issues". It is also tagged as "spelling" and "grammar", so I can see where the word "linguistic" in the title comes from. –  RegDwigнt Oct 8 '10 at 10:29
    
The best clarification of “i before e” I know is: “When it sounds like ‘e e’, put ‘i’ before ‘e’, except after ‘c’.” The only common exception I know to this is “seize”. –  PLL Dec 13 '10 at 6:04

6 Answers 6

Another spelling one:

necessary = never eat chips; eat salmon sandwiches and remain young.

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To continue with the spelling theme, there is A RAT in 'separate'. This has helped me at times. I wish someone would come up with one for 'definitely'.

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Well, for certain parts of our audience, a simple "there is 'fini' in 'definite'" might work. For the rest of us, how about memorizing "definitely finished" or some such? It's even backed up by etymology (as opposed to that "rat" in "separate"), because both "definitely" and "finish" ultimately come from Latin finis ("boundary, limit, border, end"). –  RegDwigнt Oct 6 '10 at 13:51
    
Also useful: there's a rat in the laboratory. –  ShreevatsaR Oct 6 '10 at 16:35
    
"They buried Terry in the cemetery", and "The nuns drilled us in pronunciation"... –  user730 Dec 13 '10 at 17:10

I've become rather fond of the expression "an hour and a half"; it's a quick way to remember which of the two articles "a" or "an" should I use in a situation.

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Week vs weak. As they say, unity is strength. Hence, two 'e's united can not be lacking in strength.

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We were taught the following mnemonics for remembering which prepositions are followed by which cases in German:

  • I HAZ A NU VÜ: accusative or dative (in, hinter, an, etc)
  • BO FUDGE: accusative (bis, ohne, für, etc)
  • MAZ BEG SNAV: dative (mit, aus, zu, etc)

That last one doesn't make much sense, but I can still remember it after nearly 20 years, so it must have worked!

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When I took German, I'd sing "aus ausser bei mit, nach seit, von zu" to the Blue Danube tune, and "an auf hinter in vor neben ueber unter zwischen" to the Ode to Joy. YMMV –  moioci May 11 '11 at 21:47

Some occasionally memorable spelling aids here: your dictionary

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