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The exceptions such as"foreign" and "weird" seem abnormal to me because most of the rest of the ie or ei words follow the i before e rule. They don't have a "c". Why does that happen?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, FumbleFingers, Jon Hanna, anongoodnurse, RyeɃreḁd Jun 13 '14 at 19:47

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Because the usual formation of that rule is incomplete and there really isn't a simple fix. The correct rule should apparently be (from the first link),

Use I before E

Except when C is followed by L, P, T or V

Or when sounded like "A" as in weight or "I" as in height

Or when a prefix or suffix implies E-I.

(Note that this means I before E after C the rest of the time!)

Note that there are still exceptions to the correct form of the rule,

The one I-E exception is: society (C followed by T but not E-I) (well, 3 if you count societal and societies) Of course this exception fools no one because "ie" is not a digraph in this case so the order is obvious.

The E-I exceptions are: albeit, neither, counterfeit, either, foreign, geisha, forfeit, heifer, herein, keister, leisure, peignoir, reveille, seize, sheik, sovereign, surfeit, therein, weir, weird, wherein [and variants like foreigner, forfeiture, seizure, sheikdom, weirdo, weirder]. The rare ones are: ceinture, enceinte, mullein, teiid, and villein. Of these, albeit, herein, therein and wherein are not digraphs so fool no one.


Words come into English from many different sources, with various West Germanic dialects and Norman French being the most significant. The fact that I tends to comes before E in most of our most commonly used words is a bit of a coincidence. When an E and an I are together, one of them has to come first, and -ie- is helped by the fact that words ending in -y usually convert to -ie- when made plural or past tense.

The "except after C" exception is mainly due to Anglo-Norman's heavy use of -ceivre- as a word root, from Latin capere, "to take" (e.g., receive, deceive, conceit, and so forth).

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