background preloader


Facebook Twitter

Who's confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and similar suffixes? For those of you who’ve been following my occasional series about homophonous affixes (or, to put it another way, word-endings and -beginnings that sound the same when spoken!) , you should now know your -ables from your -ibles and be proficient in fore- versus for- or four. There are plenty more similar-sounding affixes, though, so I thought it was high time to disentangle another set: the pair of suffixes -ance and -ence, and the related pairs -ant/-ent and -ancy/-ency. These endings are much used in word-formation and cause no amount of spelling confusion, as is evident from many examples in today’s English.

For example, the Oxford English Corpus (OEC) shows that independent is misspelled as independant 737 times. Although this only represents 0.3% of the total occurrences of the word, what is significant is that this error appears in many newspapers (such as The Guardian) and specialist journals (e.g. American Zoologist), which have been edited and proofread. -ance or -ence? -ance.