past simple: doubling of final consonants

  • EFL Teacher
  • Grammar



That really amazes me: even after teaching for so many years, I'm still discovering new things...

For instance, last Friday I was teaching a student about the past simple, when he asked about when you have to double the consonant. In the course book it was written that you double the consonant of "short regular verbs ending in vowel + consonant", but this rule is too simple and doesn't cover all the cases.

So I decided to check things out and write a short article about it on my blog.





These are the rules:


When the verb ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, you have to double the last consonant  and then add "ed" to make the Past Simple.

 If you have a verb with more than one syllable, you only double the consonant if the last syllable is stressed.

In British English the final "l" is doubled, even if the last syllable is not stressed.


If the last letter is "x", you do not double it (because an "x" is in fact two consonant "ks".

If the last letter is "c", you write "ck" instead of "cc".


Of course these rules only apply to regular verbs.




OK. Some examples:


Doubling of final consonant: one syllable verbs


to plan     - planned (planifier)

to bin       - binned   (mettre dans la poubelle)


to dub       - dubbed (doubler un film)

to rub        - rubbed   (frotter)


to slip         - slipped   (glisser)

to stop       - stopped   (arrêter)


to rot          - rotted (pourrir)

to knit         -  knitted  (tricoter)


to bar         - barred  (barrer)



don't double if the verb finishes with an "x" or "w"


to fix           - fixed   (réparer)

to mix         - mixed (mélanger)

to en'dow    - endowed (doter)

to bow        - bowed (saluer)




if the verb finishes with a "c", past simple is "ck"


to picnic     - picnicked  (pique-niquer)



double the consonant, if more than one syllable, and stress on the last syllable


to re'fer      - referred (faire référence à)

to pre'fer    - preferred (préférer)

to oc'cur     - occurred   (arriver)

to e'mit       - emitted   (emettre)



In British English, always double the last "l"



to 'travel      - travelled (voyager) BE

to 'label       - labelled  (étiqueter)            



if the stress is not on the last syllable, don't double


to 'travel      -   traveled     (voyager)  AE

to 'benefit    - benefited   (bénéficier)

to de'velop  - developed    (développer)


exceptions (stress not on the last syllable, but double anyway)


to 'worship - worshipped  (vénérer)

to 'kidnap   - kidnapped  (kidnapper)









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adalid 10/05/2017 15:08

Thanks for this interesting lesson¡¡¡

based on Wordreference, thre's only one syllable in "travel", why doesn't it double the "l" in AE?

And what about "format"?? the stress is not on the last syllable, why doble "t" in formatted??

Thanks again, your lesson is very useful:D

MSL 10/05/2017 19:58

Thanks for you comments. The verb travel has the word stress on the first syllable! /TRAvel/ so you shouldn't double it, and this is indeed what happens in American English. In British English, the verb travel is an exception to the rule. I don't know why...
/FORmat/ is completely regular: the stress is on the first syllable, so no doubling.

Aui 09/03/2017 14:30

Which group should "Stay" belong to?

MSL 11/03/2017 18:06

Hello Aui. "Stay" finishes with a vowel, so no doubling of consonants... ;) The past simple is written "stayed".
Thank you for your question!

Adebayor kamati 15/02/2017 21:15


yosef 13/12/2016 20:26

how about the word play

Bri 02/11/2016 16:51

Just as a comment to the last "exceptions" -- these are compound words (or were considered so at one point), so while the stress is still on the first syllable, the second syllable still has enough of a secondary stress to where the vowel is not a shwa (unstressed). Therefore, in order to keep these vowels short, a double consonant would be needed.

MSL 30/11/2016 00:20

Hi Bri. That's an interesting comment. Thanks.

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