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The Complete List of
English Spelling Rules

Lesson 17: -ance or -ence 
and -ancy or -ency


In this series of lessons, you will learn useful spelling rules in English.

This lesson will provide guidelines on adding the suffixes -ance or -ence and -ancy or -ency. These suffixes all have the same general meaning, so it is important to know when you should use each one.

a woman writing

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As we have seen in a previous lesson, a suffix is an ending that can be added to a word. The two suffix pairs, -ance / -ence and -ancy / -ency both create nouns, and they mean "state or quality of."

Choosing between these suffixes depends on the word the suffix is being added to. It will be very important for you to learn how to spell common words because there are no strict rules. However, here are some good guidelines to help you choose.

-ance

1. When the base word is an adjective that ends in -ant

a man driving and talking on a cell phone

It looks like Harold does not understand the importance of paying close attention to the road while driving!

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You will find many words in English that end in -ance.

There is a large number of these words not included in the guidelines below. You should pay attention to the spelling of new words that you learn and memorize the suffix, checking to see if one of these rules applies.

For example, "importance" is a noun that means the state of being important.

When the base word is an adjective that ends in -ant, you will remove these three letters and add -ance to make a noun for adjectives that can take this suffix.
  • significance
  • abundance
  • acceptance
  • arrogance
  • assistance
  • brilliance
  • elegance
  • fragrance


2. When the base word is a verb that ends in -ure or -ear

a man running a race

Pete has excellent endurance. He runs long distances.

When the root word is a verb that ends in -ure, you should remove the final e, then add -ance.

So the verb "endure" becomes the noun "endurance."

When the root word is a verb that ends in -ear, simply add -ance.

For example, the verb "appear" becomes "appearance."

Here are some common examples:
  • assurance
  • insurance
  • clearance
  • disappearance


3. When the base word is a verb that ends in -y

a queen

The people's defiance against the cruel queen ended her terrible rule.

When the root word is a verb that ends in -y, you should change the y to i, then add -ance.

For example, the verb "defy," which means "resist," becomes the noun "defiance" when the suffix is added.

Here are some more examples:
  • alliance
  • appliance
  • compliance
  • reliance
  • variance
  • luxuriance

-ence

4. When the base word is a verb that ends in -ere

Jerusalem

Three religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity,
have special reverence for the city of Jerusalem.

When the root word is a verb ending in -ere, remove the final e, then add -ence.

For example, the verb "revere," which means to respect greatly, becomes the noun "reverence."

Here are some common words that end with -ence:
  • coherence
  • adherence
  • interference


5. When the base word is an adjective that ends in -ent

a man asking for silence

When you have a baby sleeping at home, silence is very important!

If the base word is an adjective that ends in -ent, remove these three letters and add -ence.
  • absence
  • convenience
  • presence
  • innocence
  • insistence
  • affluence
  • evidence
  • recurrence
  • patience
  • confidence

-ancy

a baby and mother playing

Children learn important skills in their infancy.

There is no fixed rule of when you should use -ance or -ancy. This will depend on the word, so you should be sure to study them carefully.

However, if the root word is a verb that ends in -ate, you will likely use -ancy.

For example, the verb "hesitate" becomes the noun "hesitancy."

Here are some common nouns that end in -ancy:
  • expectancy
  • pregnancy
  • accountancy
  • consultancy
  • discrepancy
  • militancy
  • occupancy

-ency

bills and coins

What is the official currency in your country?

As happens with -ancy and -ance, -ency is also a bit less common than -ence. There is no fixed rule about when you should use it, but there are some common words you should learn with this suffix.

Some important examples are:
  • emergency
  • fluency
  • sufficiency
  • agency
  • urgency
  • decency
  • tendency
  • consistency
  • proficiency
  • transparency
  • leniency

Review

So, let's review what we have learned about the suffixes -ance, -ence, -ancy, and -ency in English:
  1. When the base word is an adjective that ends in -ant, you should remove these three letters and add -ance.

  2. When the base word is a verb that ends in -ure or -ear, use -ance. If the verb ends in -ure, remove the e before adding -ance.

  3. When the base word is a verb that ends in -y, change the y to an i and add -ance.

  4. When the base word is a verb that ends in -ere, remove the final e and add -ence.

  5. When the base word is an adjective that ends in -ent, remove these three letters and add -ence.

  6. You should memorize words that end in -ancy. However, if the base word is a verb that ends in -ate, you should remove the final e and add -ancy.

  7. You should memorize common words that end in -ency.


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