Words Ending With –ance and –ence

While writing the previous post, ‘The Importance of Perseverance’, I was reminded of the question my students often ask me – When do words end with –ance and when do they end with – ence. For example, the words importance and perseverance both end with –ance, but the words essence and affluence end with –ence, even though they are all pronounced identically. Why?  What is the rule for knowing when to end with –ance and when with –ence?

Unfortunately (if the word can be used here), there is no rule for this. In fact English grammar in general has no set rules. The reason for this is that the English language is derived from at least six different languages. Then with time and the advancement of science and technology, new words were formed and added to the English language, while other words weredictionary modified. With such diverse roots and changes, English grammar could never have any rules as such.

Now coming back to –ance and –ence, words ending with these suffixes are among the most misspelled words in the English language. The best way to know the correct ending is to learn the spellings, and when in doubt, check the dictionary. Other than this, based only on observation, these points can be kept in mind –

* Add –ance when

Root ends with a hard c or g: significance, elegance

Root ends with –ear: appear – > appearance

Root ends with –ure: endure – > endurance

Root ends with –ate: dominate – > dominance

Root ends with –er and first syllable stress: hinder – > hindrance

Root ends with y: defy – > defiance

Root begins with a: assist – > assistance

* Add –ence when

Root ends with a soft c or g: innocence, intelligence

Root ends with –ist: insist – > insistence

Root ends with – ere: interfere – > interference

Root ends with –er and last syllable stress: prefer – > preference

Root contains esce: inflorescence

Root contains id: confidence

Root contains qu: consequence

These “rules” are, however, not 100% reliable. All of them have exceptions. An example of an exception is perseverance. Although the root (persevere) ends with ere, -ance and not –ence is added. It is, therefore, best to consult a dictionary when in doubt.

How do you manage to spell these words correctly?

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