Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – successful

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

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.

People searching for the adjective successful in Macmillan Dictionary often mistakenly spell it *successfull or, less frequently, *succesfull.

There are two separate problems here, but let’s concentrate on the ending for now. It might seem logical to spell adjectives like successful and hopeful ‘-full’, since they mean ‘full of a particular quality’. Unfortunately logic and English spelling are often not in alignment, and words that end in this way are invariably spelled ‘-ful’. This applies not only to adjectives that mean ‘full of’ but to other types of words, such as those that mean ‘tending to’, like forgetful, and those referring to quantities, like spoonful and mouthful.

Words like this originally ended with a double ‘l’, but this started to be dropped in the 17th century and by the 18th century ‘-full’ had virtually disappeared as a standard spelling. Just to confuse matters further, the adverbs formed from these adjectives do have a double ‘l’: successfully, hopefully, carefully, and so on. No one ever claimed that English spelling was simple.

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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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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