Did you know silent e has more jobs that making vowels long? Check out the 8 jobs of silent e and grab a free printable list.
I used to be the teacher who said, “These word have a silent e that doesn’t make sense. We just have to memorize it.”
Turns out there were a lot of jobs of silent e that I just didn’t know!
So if you’ve ever wondered why a word ends with a silent e, check out this list below. You can even grab the handy free printable.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
8 Jobs of Silent E
Silent e has many jobs. Here are the 8 jobs of silent e:
- Magic e makes a vowel long
- Silent e can prevent words from ending in v
- It creates a written vowel in a final stable syllable
- Silent e can make c and g soft
- It makes th spell the unvoiced sound
- Silent e can show a noun is not plural
- It makes short words look longer.
- Silent e can clarify meaning.
Jobs of Silent E Printable
Print this handy chart to help your child learn the rules of silent e. This list is more geared to an adult teaching a child.
I would not recommend you print it out and just give it to a second grader. Instead use it as a reference for yourself.
Grab the free silent e printable in this box below. By entering your information, you are agreeing to get my email newsletter.
If your inbox is already too full, you can unsubscribe at any time. However, I bet you’ll love the literacy and social-emotional tips and deals.
Job 1: Magic e rule
The most famous job of silent e is making the vowel say its name. These are also called CVCe words.
In these words, the first vowel says its long sound:
It can also happen when there are two consonants between the vowel and the silent e like:
The magic e makes up the majority of the silent e we see in words. But silent e still has more jobs!
Job 2: Silent e prevents words from ending in u or v.
I used to teach that have and give were rule breakers. They didn’t make the vowel long.
Well, it turns out silent e is doing a different job. Words in English don’t end in u or v.
Besides the sight word have and give, other words that follow this rule include:
Words that don’t end in the letter u include:
So teach your child that words in English need a silent e if they end in the sounds /v/ or /u/ written with the letters v and u.
Job 3: Create a written vowel in a final stable syllable
First, there are a few things you need to know about syllables:
- every syllable has a vowel sound
- every syllable has a written vowel letter
Second, you need to know what a final stable syllable is. It’s also called the consonant-le syllable. Some examples are:
The letter l is a vowel-like consonant. When it is articulated after another consonant, it almost sounds like the schwa vowel /uh/.
Words with a final stable syllable include:
Job 4: Makes c and g soft
The letters c and g can spell hard sounds and soft sounds:
- Hard sound /k/
- Soft sound /s/
- Hard sound: /g/
- Soft sound: /j/
At the end of the word where there is a -ce, it spells the soft sound /s/ like rice.
At the end of the word where there is a -ge, it spells the soft sound /j/ like cage.
Job 5: Silent e makes the th spell the voiced sound
When my daughter started speech therapy, I remember contemplating the difference of bath and bathe.
It turns out that the digraph th spells two sounds: voiced and unvoiced. If you put your fingers on your voice box, you’ll feel a vibration for the th in bathe. You won’t feel it for bath.
Here are more examples for when the silent e makes th voiced:
Job 6: Silent e shows a word is not plural
Words in English end in the letter s to distinguish plural and singular words. This happens with nouns and with verbs.
Silent E makes these nouns not plural:
Similarly, silent e shows when a verb is singular versus plural
- He teases the boy.
- They tease the boy.
Job 7: Silent e makes words look bigger
Some words are small. The final silent e makes them bigger.
Some examples are:
The silent e only has one purpose in these words – making them look more substantial.
Job 8: Silent e clarifies meaning
There are times when a word is pronounced exactly the same, but the silent e clarifies the meaning.
Some examples of the silent e making mean clear are:
- or & ore
- by & bye
Sometimes silent e does more than one job
In many words, silent e is doing more than one job.
In the word mice:
- silent e makes the long i vowel, and
- silent e makes the c soft.
In the words tease:
- Silent e shows the word is not plural
- Silent e clarifies meaning from teas
When is the final e not silent?
The final e is not silent when it’s creating an open syllable. This means when the vowel is not closed in by another consonant, it spells its long sound.
Open syllables with e include:
Learning more about the phonics rules in English
I learned these rules from the book Uncovering the Logic of English. In a short 186 pages, the author clarifies so many misconceptions about English.
If you homeschool or are a teacher, I cannot recommend this book enough. If you have a child with a learning disability and you are DIYing tutoring at home, I also recommend you grab a copy.
I can only read a page or 2 at a time. So be aware it’s more a resource book than a novel.
Why does your child need to know these jobs?
It’s pretty easy to explain that an e at the end of a word is silent. When we read words, we match them to our lexicon, or mental dictionary.
So when your child read the word serve, they will sound out /s/ /ir/ /v/. By the time they get to the v, they’ll know the word serve.
But when it comes to spelling, it’s especially important that your child know the rules for adding a silent e. Your child doesn’t to recite this list by heart. Having some good working knowledge goes a long way!
Resources for Magic E
When you are teaching your child about the Magic E, check out these printables:
Word Mapping Activity
This Phonics Word Mapping Activity printable teaches over 30 phonics skills with 400+ words. Plus, there are answer keys for teachers and parents!
It makes learning hands-on and concrete for children. Plus it leverages how our brain actually learns to read! We connect speech sounds to letters. Then we match them to our mental dictionary.
You can also find it on Teachers Pay Teachers.
CVCe Word Mapping Worksheets
Practice magic e words with these CVCe word mapping worksheets. These are a simple print-and-go worksheet.
But they are so powerful in how they connect speech sounds to letters.
You can also find them on Teachers Pay Teachers.