In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.
Many of those who want to look up the verb acquire in Macmillan Dictionary search for *aquire instead.
There are a few dozen words in English that begin with the combination acqu- but a roughly equal number start with aqu-. The former include acquire and its derivations, as well as words like acquaintance and acquiesce; the latter group meanwhile includes words like aqautic and aqueduct. These last two in fact give us a clue to the reasons behind the aqu- spelling: almost all the words in Macmillan Dictionary that begin with aqu- relate to water and come from the Latin ‘aqua’ (one exception is aquiline, which comes from ‘aquila’ meaning ‘eagle’). Words beginning acqu- meanwhile tend to come from Latin words formed from the preposition ‘ad’ (‘to’) plus a verb (in the case of acquire, ‘quaerere’ meaning to seek).
But there’s no need to think about Latin prepositions and verbs in order to remember how to spell acquire, acquaintance and the rest: just remember that if the word isn’t to do with water (or eagles…) then you need a ‘c’ before the ‘q’.
You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.
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