Sometimes people are confused between -ich and -itch.

For example, I saw someone make a mistake by using swich instead of switch.

I wonder, are there any rules for which words have -ich ending and others have -itch ending?

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    So far as I can tell, the only common English words which end in -ich (without the t) are rich ostrich sandwich (well, and enrich in addition to rich). So if it's not a rich ostrich sandwich, it ends in -itch.
    – Dan Bron
    May 13, 2015 at 23:38
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    @DanBron And one more, which you included in your comment (probably even without thinking), but did not cite as an example: which. There are quite a lot of names as well, like Sandwich or Harwich or Greenwich, that end in -wich specifically, as well as some more obscure words, like lich (as in lich-house/lych-house), tich (also titch: a small person), czarevich/tsarevich (son of a czar/tsar), and wich (saltworks/salt pits). And then of course the ones that end in -ich, but with different pronunciations, like Zurich, droich, stich, etc. May 14, 2015 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


There's not exactly a "rule", but most words with this rhyme are spelled with "itch" and not "ich". See RhymeZone on "witch": the only common words it has spelled with "ich" are "which" and "rich" (for some reason it doesn't list "sandwich" or "ostrich"; perhaps because these words aren't stressed on the last syllable, or perhaps because they are often pronounced with a voiced final consonant, like "midge").

This pattern also applies when other short vowels precede a "tch" sound, like in the words "patch", "etch", "butch", "splotch".

It might be compared to the usual use of the special spellings "dge" (as in "fridge") and "ck" (as in "stick") after short vowels to represent word-final /d͡ʒ/ and /k/ respectively (the sounds represented by "j" and "k" in other contexts). There are a small number of exceptions to these patterns as well, like "allege" and "sac".

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    English spelling doesn't have rules; it has serving suggestions. And they're pretty ridiculous and have many many exceptions. If you really want to learn rules for English spelling, start by getting a PhD in historical English linguistics. May 14, 2015 at 1:36
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    @JohnLawler: what you say is the real answer. In this case, I can't even find a complete historical reason for why some words are spelled with -ch and others with -tch, let alone a rule for modern English speakers. The spelling with -tch doesn't always correspond to OE geminates, as there are words like "stitch" < stice or "pitch" < pic. Nor does the spelling with -ch always correspond to a preceding long vowel in OE; this is true for "rich," "lich," and "-wich", but "which" has a completely different history with a lost /l/.
    – herisson
    May 14, 2015 at 1:52
  • See also the final CH's from the PIE yodated causative. May 14, 2015 at 2:03

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