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How to Use "ie" and "ei" | Grammar Differences

2 min read
8 February 2021
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English spellings can often be tricky, especially because they’ve taken inspiration from so many different languages. Nearly every rule has an exception, and it can be hard to keep them all straight!

Learning the spelling rules for ‘ie’ and ‘ei’ correctly will help you overcome one of the most common spelling mistakes in English. There is even a rhyme created to help remember the spelling rules.

I before E, except after C, or when sounding like AY as in neighbor and weigh.

Let's analyze each part of the rhyme below:


I before E…  

When the sound is e [/ē/], write ‘ie’

Examples: belief, believe, brief, chief, field, hygiene, niece, priest, relieved, thief, tier


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… except after C.

When the e sound comes after an S sound, use ‘cei’

Examples: ceiling, conceive, deceive, receipt, receive, conceited


Or when sounding like AY.

When the main vowel sounds like AY, use ‘ei’

Examples: freight, neighbor, sleigh, weigh, weight, vein


Of course, as with most English spelling and grammar rules, there are exceptions! Here are some weird uses of ei and ie.

Examples: ancient, caffeine, friend, height, leisure, seize, species


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