Words Ending in -ance and -ence

By Maeve Maddox

A reader asked if there were some easy-to-remember spelling tip for dealing with words ending in -ence and -ance.

Both endings derive from Latin nouns.

Words from Latin nouns ending in -entia
affluence from affluentia, “abundance”
audience from audientia, “a hearing”
benevolence from benevolentia, “good will”
continence from continentia, “self-control”
diligence from diligentia, “accuracy”

Words from Latin nouns ending in -antia
elegance from elegantia, “neatness”
petulance from petulantia, “forward conduct”
significance from significantia, “an indication, a sign”
vigilance from vigilantia, “watchfulness”
tolerance from tolerantia, “enduring”

Here are some of the most common English words with these endings. The only way to spell them correctly–apart from using a spell checker–is to memorize them.

Words ending in -ence:
absence
affluence
audience
coherence
conference
confidence
conscience
consequence
consistence
correspondence
dependence
diligence
evidence
existence
influence
obedience
occurrence
patience
persistence
preference
reference

Words ending in -ance:
acquaintance
allowance
ambulance
annoyance
appearance
appliance
arrogance
disturbance
dominance
extravagance
grievance
guidance
ignorance
instance
nuisance
relevance
remittance
resistance
significance
substance
tolerance

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2 Responses to “Words Ending in -ance and -ence”

  • lisa

    Another option is to school yourself to pronounce -ence and -ance distinctly and differently. When they sound different it is easier to keep them straight – they are not actually the same.

  • venqax

    @lisa: Wellll… yes they are. If that approach works for you to remember which is which then by all means, do it. Those types of tricks can be very helpful when memorization is required. But the vowels in both cases are schwas. Unstressed vowel sounds denoted with the upside-down e in pronunciation guides (no idea how to make that symbol on here. I’ve seen others do it). So, if you did stress them in your actual speech as sub-STANCE or ab-CENTS you would be making a pretty affected spelling mispronunciation that could be as just as bad as the misspelling..

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