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 in Macmillan Dictionary for the noun extension often mistakenly spell it *extention.
Nouns ending in -tion are much more common in English than those ending in -sion: Macmillan Dictionary contains around five times as many of the former as the latter. The two endings are also often pronounced the same; so it is hardly surprising that when required to guess the spelling, many people choose the wrong one.
The reasons why nouns end in ‘-tion’ or ‘-sion’ lie in their Latin roots. Words whose Latin forms include the letter ‘t’ take the suffix -tion, while those whose Latin forms include ‘s’ end in -sion. So negation and accusation, which come from Latin ‘negatio’ and ‘accusatio’ respectively, use the -tion suffix; while extension and compulsion, from Latin ‘extensio’ and ‘compulsio’ end in -sion.
As we have often noted in these posts, most of us do not know enough Latin to make this rule obvious, so yet again the only answer is to memorize the spellings.
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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