Dear Realspellers!

I have just read a book on English orthography where the author states - just like all the other textbooks - that the productive past tense morpheme is <-d / -ed> just like the verbal and plural ending <-s /-es>. While the latter is true, we all know that the former is not true. As Melvyn has so emphatically stated: the productive past tense morpheme is ALWAYS <ed>. 

I have been working on these words with kids and I am wondering why we have <play + ed = played, pray + ed = prayed> but <say - said; pay - paid; lay - laid>; these seem to indicate the word sums as: [say + d = sayd; pay + d = payd; lay + d = layd]. Now the <ay> becoming medial swithes to the correct medial grapheme <ai>. On the surface this seems to be the case but, as we are learning, there has to be an explanation to this orthographic 'violation' considering the fact that a vowel + <ysuch as [ay, oy, ey] is an unalterable combination   There is the same grapheme switch going on with <day> and <daily>: given that the a consonant suffix <ly> is being added to the base <day>, one would simplay have expected <dayly> instead of the <daily> we have.

Has any of you done anything with these words, who can shed some light on these for me?

Thanks everyone.


  • I've been looking at this as well. Let me try:

    A number of words LOOK like they might use the Y-to-I conversion rule like say/said, pay/paid, lay/lain, slay/slain but they are simply present- and past-tense words, like have/had or go/gone.

    There are a small number of words that seem to use Y-to-I in spite of the vowel+Y rule, so maybe that rule isn't fully defined. Felicia pointed out day/daily. I would add gay/gaily (and gaiety), and maybe fay/fairy.

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  • Hey Felicia and Tom,

    This is an old classic. Sorry I didn't notice your question for so long Felicia!

    I started to post a response, but realized that this is such a key question so many have, I have responded by creating a new post that will be searchable with the word <said> at THIS LINK.

    Comment last edited on about 6 months ago by Pete
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