Grammar ‘Double letters’

When adding -ing and -ed to verbs, we sometimes double the consonant beforehand. People are often confused with ‘worshipped/worshiped’, ‘focussed/focused’ and ‘targetted/targeted’. This tip answers some of those queries.

The official requirements are that we ‘double a single consonant letter at the end of any base where the preceding vowel is spelled with a single letter and stressed’.

What does this mean in practice?


word present participle past participle
bar barring barred
beg begging begged
occur occurring occurred
permit permitting permitted
patrol patrolling patrolled

It is true to say that there is usually no doubling when the preceding vowel is unstressed (‘enter’ becomes ‘entering/entered’; ‘visit’ becomes ‘visiting/visited’) or when the preceding vowel is written with two letters (‘tread’ becomes ‘treading/treaded’).

Verbs ending in ‘p’

Most verbs ending in ‘p’, after an unstressed vowel, have no doubling of that final consonant in standard received British English or American English.

Here are some which follow the ‘most verbs’ rule: ‘develop’, ‘gossip’, ‘gallop’ – these become just ‘developing/developed’, ‘gossiping/gossiped’, ‘galloping/galloped’.

Even here, there are pesky exceptions: ‘worship’, ‘handicap’ and ‘kidnap’ become ‘worshipping/worshipped’, ‘handicapping/handicapped’ and ‘kidnapping/kidnapped’ in standard received British English.


Some words change their spelling to cope (they add a letter ‘k’).

word present participle past participle
panic panicking panicked
traffic trafficking trafficked
frolic frolicking frolicked
bivouac bivouacking bivouacked

What about ‘focus’?

This word can take either double or single s, with the single option being highly preferred.

word present participle past participle
focus focusing/focussing focused/focussed

Here’s an odd one to end:

American British English
parallel parallel
paralleling parallelling
paralleled parallelled


The vetting service from Future Perfect is unparallelled.


The doubling of the consonant has little to do with confusion, or lack of it ; it has all to do, I am told, with established orthographic patterns common to those of many other Germanic languages, being based generally upon stress (tonic accent) and vowel length.

Thus, where we have a stressed short final syllable ending in a single consonantand only then, it seems – we double the consonant in order to keep the vowel SHORT –

forget, forgetting … avoiding forg-[EE]ting
remit, remitting … avoiding rem-[IGH]ting
omit, omitting … avoiding om-[IGH]ting

… but, when the final syllable is unstressed, we don’t, since the unstressed vowel remains SHORT in any case –

visit, visiting
ticket, ticketing
docket, docketing

… nor do we when the vowel of the final stressed syllable is long, since it is, and remains, LONG –

remain, remaining
delete, deleting
read, reading

… and, finally, nor do we when the syllable ends with more than one consonant, since the two consonants ensure that the viwel remain SHORT –

insist, insisting
crush, crushing
thirst, thirsting

Similarly –

(p)refer, (p)referring
lever, levering

repel, repelling
rebel, rebelling
travel, traveling – oh, those wicked Brits, with their travelling !

open, opening

rebut, rebutting
pivot, pivoting

etc., etc. …

NB :: The letter “v”, aongst others, influences vowels in strange ways, and although the following words – and many more, doubtless – have both short-vowel final syllables and a single final consonant, these vowels look “long” because of the archaic final “e”, and so do not give rise to a doubling –

love, live, give = loving, living, giving –

– and not lovving, livving, givving – which do have a certain zany, Cartesian logic to them !

Of course, there are so many exceptions out there in English orthography that I understand the above only as guiding principles. I would never like to speak of rules as such, much less of “Rules” !

You end by writing that –

… it isn’t the look (awkward) but the pronunciation that causes the change and despite what you may or may not have read I have never heard of or seen the use of kidnaper in American English.

But I merely wished to point out that the look of a “correct” form can be awkward, especially so in composite words, where the eye is naturally attracted towards a final, simple and separable element where a doubling is natural, as in, for example, “to kidnap”, which reads easily as – and once was – to kid nap, or to kid-nap – “to steal (nab) a child (kid) [for ransom]”.

In view of the double nature of such words, I am quite happy with both forms –

kidnap, kidnapped / kidnaped

… as are those entries you will find under “kidnaper” in, linked to this very forum –

To show that the spelling, whilst not terribly common, is alive and well in the States at least, I append below links to some articles which have appeared in the US press employing the contested spelling.

Now “format” is a tricky one, since my ear, at least, hears the word almost as a spondee rather than as a trochee, which it undoubtedly still is, though it may change camp one of these days. This effect, heard also in “kidnap”, is helped by the clarity of the “A” vowel, and perhaps has given us the forms –

formatting, formatted, formatter

… as though the secondary stress on the second syllable were frankly equal to that on the first – which I don’t really quite yet feel.

Usage is all, though, and these forms are obviously quite correct, as are all forms of all words which are legitimately used, such is the fluidity of our beautiful and supple tongue.

However, I would defend those who wish to write, and say –

formating, formated, formater

I would give you a few links to “formating” but, to be frank, a simple Google search throws up so many examples that I’ll leave it to you to trawl through them at your leisure, should you so desire.

Honesty does obliges me, though, to say that I have found these latter spellings in no dictionary so far, though they are much more widely used than the single “T” forms of “kidnap” ! Strange …

I rest my case.

In closing, I would say that I do use US spellings quite often – and not only when writing to those to whom those usages come naturally – since I find many of them simpler, clearer and more elegant than the British forms.

However, I would not feel awkward in using the British spellings of my childhood when writing to my friends on the other side of the pond ; nor would I feel awkward – as must be clear – in reading the US spellings which come naturally to them.

Indeed, I would defend diversity to the very end, and the right of all to use the forms they feel most at home with.

Here are some of those links toUS usage of “kidnaper” – there are many more out there –…5_to_life.html…806608,00.html…%20Guilty.html…%20Prison.html…-sentenced.htm


More interesting facts here and here



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Roopam
    Apr 06, 2017 @ 03:47:25

    Its really knowledgable things in grammar part which know very few people about rules of grammar even high qualified people


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