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General Rules

General spelling rules for Years 3 and 4.

The new statutory requirements are quite specific about the spelling rules to be taught in each year group. One particular pattern for Years 3 and 4 is using ‘ch’ for the ‘k’ sound. There are quite a number of words that follow this pattern, from common words such as school and echo to less familiar ones such as chameleon and chlorine.

Children often ask why we have these different spelling rules and in this case it seems that most of the words with the /k/ pronunciation of ‘ch’ originate in Greek words which use chi.

Children can be uncertain about when to use ‘a’ and ‘an’. The general rule is quite simple:

use an before a word that starts with a vowel sound. (Remember, vowels are a, e, i, o and u.)

If the word does not start with a vowel sound use a.

So, you should say a man, a coat and a hat but an elephant, an ant and an octopus.

The key is that it is a vowel sound, not just a vowel. Words which begin with the letter ‘h’ can cause problems, but usually we keep to this rule: if the ‘h’ is not sounded we use an, if it is sounded we use a.

e.g. a house (not an house) an hour (not a hour)

Here are three words that you might see with a or an in front of them. Most peculiar!


You might well hear people say an hotel or a hotel, an historic event or a historic event. This comes about because the letter ‘h’ is not always sounded and often depends on the part of the country that people come from. In these three cases either a or an can be considered correct.

There are also other cases where it is quite tricky, including:

    Using a when ‘u’ makes the same sound as the ‘y’ in ‘you’
    e.g. a useless knife (not an useless knife)
    Using a when ‘o’ makes the same sound as the ‘w’ in ‘won’
    e.g. a once in a lifetime trip (not an once)
    Using a when ‘eu’ makes the same sound as the ‘y’ in ‘you’
    e.g. Tom had a Euro to spend (not an Euro)
    Using a when ‘e’ by itself makes the same sound as the ‘y’ in ‘you’
    e.g. a ewe is a female sheep (not an ewe)

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