Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – grateful

© Macmillan
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 who are trying to look up the adjective grateful in Macmillan Dictionary often search for *greatful instead.

In this series we have often looked to frequency as a reason for a certain misspelling, and it is illuminating to do this for grateful. There are 13 entries in Macmillan Dictionary that begin with grat- , most of them like grateful deriving ultimately from the Latin ‘gratus’ meaning ‘pleasing’ or ‘thankful’. Only eight entries start with great, and four of these are for great itself in different parts of speech. But great is an extremely frequent word: there are over 12 million citations for it in our corpus, while there are less than 440,000 for grateful. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that many people plump for great- as the most likely realization of the syllable /ɡreɪt/.

An easy way to remember how to spell grateful is to remember that its related noun is gratitude, so no ‘e’ in the first syllable. The same goes for ungrateful, gratefully and other related words.

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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