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What's the past participle form of the word exit? Is it exit (irregular, like set)? exited? exitted? On one page I found exited but if that's the case why isn't it exitted (double t) like with the word emit - emitted? Is there a rule when the consonant at the end is doubled and when not?

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    Might have something to do with stress. Exit and exited are stressed on the first syllable; emit and emitted on the second. Similarly ballot|balloted (although OED admits that ballotted does rarely occur).
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 29, 2015 at 10:36

1 Answer 1

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When we have a word ending in a single vowel and then the consonant 't', the consonant is only doubled before suffixes if that syllable is stressed. So when there is no stress we observe just a single 't'. In the following examples the stressed syllables are premarked with an apostrophe:

  • 'rocketed
  • e'licited
  • 'billeted
  • 'ratcheted
  • 'exited

However if the last syllable is stressed then we will see a doubling of the consonant:

  • ga'rotted
  • 'vetted
  • re'potted
  • a'betted
  • e'mitted

This is just a rule of thumb as there are special rules for certain prefixes, and compound words and loan words from other languages will not necessarily follow the rule.

Edit: Please also see Janus' interesting comment below about loan words with silent 't's below!

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    And of course if the t is purely orthographic and doesn’t represent an actual /t/, it is never doubled no matter where the stress is, so those who pronounce ricochet or debut with final stress would still only write one t in ricocheted /rɪkəˈʃed/ and debuted /deˈbjud/. Jan 29, 2015 at 13:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes, indeed. I've directed readers to your comment! :) Jan 29, 2015 at 13:06
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    Same thing with L: caroled, channeled, equaled, medaled, pedaled and penciled but  compelled, controlled, dispelled, propelled and patrolled.  While “canceled” is the correct spelling according to the stress rule, it is often written “cancelled”. Feb 22, 2018 at 6:31
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    @Scott Quite right, but only in US English though. The first list there all have double <l> in UK and other Englishes! Feb 22, 2018 at 9:29
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    Awesome. I was just having issues explaining to my spawn the discrepancies between hit/hitting, permit/permitting, and exit/exiting. I see now it's due to the first two stressing the final syllable (of the root word) HIT and perMIT, while the latter is EXit. And re " there are special rules for certain prefixes" - damn English with its bizarre special rules. Even as a native speaker six decades in, this still bugs the hell out of me :-)
    – paxdiablo
    Jul 28, 2023 at 4:38

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