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The silent E in English

In Spanish, the written language is a fairly accurate phonetic representation of the words. This is why "baseball" is spelled "beisbol". In English, the spelling of words is more the result of tradition, rather than phonetics. Every person who has ever tried to write English knows that the spelling of English words has to be memorized. The English language resulted from a mishmash of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon heritage modified by the influence of the Roman and Norman conquests.

What is the function of the silent "E"? The silent "E" is responsible for the difference between the pronunciation of "HAT" and "HATE" or between "CAP" and "CAPE" or between "HOP" and "HOPE". Although the final "E" is not pronounced, it indicates how the vowel preceding the consonant should be pronounced. The "A" in "HAT" is called a short vowel, whereas the "A" in "HATE" is called a long vowel. Long vowels are usually diphthongs, i.e., two adjacent vowels with a smooth transition from one vowel to another.

Learn how short and long vowels affect the patterns of conjugation of regular verbs in English.

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