-t ending to verbs

Posted by Psi on February 20, 2002

In Reply to: -t ending to verbs posted by R. Berg on February 19, 2002

: : : : : : : I've just posted something here using the past participle of the verb "to benefit" and it's reminded me of an unresolved argument I had many moons ago.

: : : : : : : I'm admittedly both British and a linguist and so therefore undoubtedly obsessive beyond redemption, but every single bone in my body instinctually screams for me to spell the word "benefitted" with two t's. Similarly, were I ever to use the perfect tense of the verb "to target", I'd type "I have targetted" without so much as a second thought simply because without the double "t", the preceding vowel would be pronounced as strong - "kitten" versus "kite", if you like. I am sure there are other multisyllabic verbs ending in a vowel + t which I'd treat similarly.

: : : : : : : What's the general view on this? Two t's or one? Or is it another transatlantic "vive la différence" thing?

: : : : : : It is a transatlantic thing, and not confined to -t. My most recent U.S. dictionary (American Heritage) gives both "kidnaped" and "kidnapped, "shoveled" and "shovelled." The American tendency is not to double the consonant if the accent is on another syllable--at least in book publishing; the New Yorker magazine still doubles ("travelled"). But we double for "outfitted," perhaps under the influence of "fitted," from the monosyllabic "fit."

: : : : : I have difficulty imagining just how the spelling "targeted" would lead you to pronounce the word. The analogy with "kitten" and "kite" suggests a long "e." But "tar-GEET-ed"? Really?

: : : : I've definitely seen the single "t" "targeted" in the USA, though I agree that the pronunciation issue makes it look ridiculous. The other verb that I've just remembered is "to focus". I would ALWAYS use "focussed", but "focused" seems to be more common in the USA - presumably to rhyme with "accused"... :)

: : : "Targeted" doesn't look ridiculous to me. It follows the same rule as "limited."

: : : These are all normal U.S. spellings, from which the guiding principles might be extracted--with exceptions, of course.

: : : (Accent on last syllable of verb; long vowel)
: : : repeating
: : : deleting

: : : (Accent elsewhere; short vowel)
: : : canceling, canceled; BUT cancellation, chancellor
: : : rivaling, rivaled
: : : raveling, raveled
: : : shriveling, shriveled
: : : gladdening, gladdened
: : : fattening, fattened
: : : muttering, muttered
: : : shattering, shattered
: : : counseling, counseled, counselor
: : : bedeviling, bedeviled, bedevilment
: : :
: : : (Accent on last syllable; short vowel)
: : : concurring
: : : inferring
: : : occurring
: : : impairing (hmm!)
: : : preferring
: : : permitting
: : : transmitting
: : : committing, committed (BUT commitment)

: : : (Accent elsewhere; long vowel)
: : : mutating
: : : generating
: : : celebrating

: : : (Plurals)
: : : omnibuses
: : : rebuses
: : : crocuses OR croci
: : : foci

: : Okay now R. Berg's examples have got me thinking. Yes there's clearly the usual US / UK divide here, but it's a little more complex than that. In the UK, we would *always* double the final "L" in the cases of cancel, ravel, rival, shrivel, bedevil and so on. This would seem to show a little more consistency, as is noted with the examples of cancellation, chancellor etc. As I previously posted, we'd always go for "benefitted" and certainly "kidnapped" too - Robert Louis Stevenson lends his weight to the latter of those two examples.

: : As for -er and -en constructs, yes the point is well made - we'd never double those final consonants up either.

: : However -vowel +t is proving a little trickier to define even a guideline for. I'm still sticking with "targetted" as just feeling more correct over here, but the quoted example of "limited" is an excellent one - we'd spell it exactly that way. I think that it may be the exception to the rule though, because I'll throw back any verb from the Latin root "mittere" - all of which would double the final "t"... "permitted" "submitting" and so on.

: : As for "focussing", again I have to go on instinct. Perhaps it'd be relevant to draw attention to the adjective "pussy", meaning full of pus? I'm not sure. The plural of "omnibus" is indeed "omnibuses", so Bob is probably right to highlight the difference between "busing" and "bussing". The former just rings all sorts of visual alarm bells with me when I look at the letters - plus of course I'd far rather be doing the latter.

: More words for formulating a guideline: interpret, (dis)credit, debit, hotfoot, (dis)quiet, solicit, surfeit, forfeit, profit, intuit, fidget, buffet, exhibit, deposit, ricochet, (dis)inherit. All end in "t" preceded by a short vowel but not in "mit," the accent is earlier in the word, and the "t" isn't doubled--not here, anyway.

Also marketing. A Yahoo search gave 5000 web pages for "marketting", but 15 million for "marketing".