The Complete List of
English Spelling Rules

Lesson 19: -sion, -tion, or -cion

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

This lesson will give you helpful guidelines to know when to use the noun suffixes -tion, -sion, and -cion.

a woman writing

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All three of these suffixes create nouns. You will see them quite often.

The most common suffixes by far are -tion and -sion. The suffix -cion is used very infrequently.

1. -sion with a ZH sound

    a man watching television

Harry hates to miss his favorite television program.

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It is important to know that the first letter of the suffix -sion can have different pronunciations. The vowels will always have a short U sound. In some words, the s can be pronounced with a ZH sound. For example, this happens when the -sion ending comes after a vowel.

If you hear the "ZHun" sound at the end of a word, it will have a -sion ending.

Here are some of the most common examples with this pronunciation:
  • collision
  • division
  • explosion
  • decision
  • seclusion
  • revision
  • confusion
  • conclusion
  • occasion
  • vision
  • invasion
  • exclusion
  • precision
  • fusion
  • persuasion
  • intrusion

2. -sion after the letters L, N, or R

a group of kids and teachers

The class will go on an excursion to a sports camp.

If the final letter of the word before the noun suffix is l, n, or r, the ending will usually be -sion.

After an r ending, -sion will have the ZH sound seen above. After an l or an n, it will have a SH sound, "SHun."

For example:
  • compulsion
  • expulsion
  • propulsion
  • extension
  • tension
  • apprehension
  • expansion
  • pension
  • mansion
  • comprehension
  • dimension
  • suspension
  • diversion
  • immersion
  • version
  • conversion

3. -sion for root words ending in -mit or -ss

a school teacher

The teacher gave the students permission to take a break.

Finally, when the root word we add the noun suffix to ends in -ss or -mit, we will use -sion. For these words, you will see that the root takes a final s so that the ending is -ssion.

For example, the verb "permit" becomes the noun "permission." The verb "express" becomes the noun "expression."

Here are some examples:
  • commission
  • discussion
  • session
  • recession
  • profession
  • mission
  • admission
  • passion
  • depression
  • succession
  • transmission
  • submission
  • emission
  • aggression
  • concession
  • compassion
  • percussion

4. -tion after letters other than L, N, or R

a woman asking a question

Pauline had a question about the new system.

The -tion ending will always have a SH sound followed by a short U sound: "SHun." It is used after letters other than l, n, or r. This is a very common ending for English nouns.

Here are some common nouns with a -tion ending:
  • information
  • education
  • position
  • action
  • section
  • situation
  • condition
  • production
  • population
  • application
  • operation
  • election
  • association
  • station
  • function
  • organization
  • direction
  • competition
  • institution
  • solution
  • communication
  • protection
  • option
  • contribution
  • reaction

5. -tion exceptions after N or R

a telephone

The telephone was a very important invention of the 19th century.

However, there are a few words in English that have a -tion ending after an n or an r. You should learn these exceptions.

For example:
  • mention
  • attention
  • intention
  • convention
  • prevention
  • detention
  • proportion
  • assertion
  • distortion
  • exertion
  • extortion

6. -cion 

a detective

The detective had a suspicion about the tall woman.

There are only a few words in English that end in -cion, so you can memorize them.

They are:
  • suspicion
  • coercion
  • scion


So, let's review what we have learned about the noun suffixes -sion, -tion, and -cion in English:

  1. The suffixes -tion and -sion are quite common. There are only a few words in English with the -cion suffix.

  2. If the suffix is pronounced "ZHun," it will be spelled -sion. However, this ending can also be pronounced "SHun."
  3. If the last letter before the noun suffix is l, n, or r, the word will take -sion. There are a few exceptions when these words will take -tion.

  4. The -sion suffix is also used for root words ending in -mit or -ss. In these cases, there will be a final s before the suffix, meaning that the word will end in -ssion.

  5. After letters other than l, n, or r, the -tion suffix is used. It is always pronounced "SHun."

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