Y Rule in spelling

This language lesson is designed for 6-12-year-old children to help them familiarize with y spelling rule.

In our previous videos, we have explained a few spelling generalization rules like FLOSS and CK and K. In this video, the child learns the distinct sounds of the honorary vowel ‘Y’ and the various words that can be formed using it. 

The letter y is a consonant and is pronounced as /y/ but this happens only when y comes at the beginning of a syllable. Thus, letter y acts more like a vowel than a consonant. It borrows sounds of vowels when it occurs in different places. Let us understand it in detail.

To comprehend this spelling generalization rule of letter y, it is good for the children to understand what is an open syllable type. They should be able to determine the number of syllables in a word. Further, the children should be able to fragment 4 to 5 sounds.

What is the ‘Y Rule’ in Spelling?

  1. Y at the end of a word and has a single syllable– This Y rule in phonics states that if a word has a single syllable and ends with y then y makes the long i sound. For example, dry, fly, my, by.
  2. Y at the end of a word and has two syllables – It also states that if a word has two syllables and ends with ‘y’ then ‘y’ typically makes the long e sound. For example – candy, fluffy, and puppy.
  3. Y in the middle of a word – The ‘y’ letter is also used in the medial position of the word and there is pronounced with the sound of short i. For example–symbol, mystic, rhythm, gym.

Forming Words with Y rule

The following words should be read based on Y rule

  • D + r + y = dry
  • S + p + y = spy
  • P + l + y = ply

The above words have a single syllable and end with y. Here, the letter y borrows the sound of long i.

  • H + a + pp + y = happy
  • S + i + ll + y = silly
  • E + m + p + t +y = empty

Here the words have two syllables and end with y. The letter y carries the sound of a long e.

Now, the words below have y in the middle of the word and hence we pronounce y as short i –

  •  M + y + s + t + i + c = mystic
  • G + y + m = gym

Y Rule Exception

There is always an exception to the rules. Here are some exceptions to the Y rule.

  1. When the letter y is in the middle of the word, but is the first letter of the syllable, then it is pronounced as /y/. For example–canyon, beyond,
  2. In a few words, where the word has two syllables and ends with the y, the letter y is pronounced with the sound of long i rather than long e. For example–apply, reply, July.
  3. There are few words where the letter y is in the middle of the word and is pronounced with long i. For example–style, type, pylon, tyrant, and rhyme.

Common Words with Y Rule

  •  Long I words: fry, cry, sly, ply, by, shy, try, why, wry, sky.
  • Long E words: lacy, cozy, tidy, pony, empty, many, lady, carry.
  • Y in the middle: hymn, myth, crypt, lyric, mystery, pyramid.

Y Spelling Rule Reading Readiness

To understand the Y rule thoroughly, allow the child to first practice words with short and long vowels, blends, and single or double syllables. The following questions will be helpful in deciding which spelling should be used:

  • What is the base word?
  • Does the word have a single syllable or double?
  • Is the sound of long I or Long E heard?
  • Where do I hear the vowel sound?

Children love to experiment and understand. Give them activities to comprehend the generalization rule.

Activities to Help the Child Understand the Y Generalization Rule.

  • Board games are always the favorite as they not only develop cognitive skill, but little deviation also increases vocabulary and help the children spell the words with the correct pronunciation.
  • Prepare a board game with some pictures that follow different Y rules and carry exceptions too. Play this game with the child. Ask them to roll a die and whichever picture they reach, tell them to search for the number of syllables and vowel location. Allow the child to guess the spelling and win the rewards.
  • Dictation using flash cards or picture cards can help the students form the correct spellings with ease. Use some keywords to let the children recall the placement of y and pronunciation as a vowel.

Note – Avoid using words like hi with words where y is pronounced as long I at the end of the word.

What is the ‘Y Rule’ in Writing?

The rules described in the video are sound-based, but there are more rules for the Y which are basically followed while writing. Have a look!

  • If the letter before a final y is a vowel, the y doesn’t change when a suffix is added to it. For example –
    • Annoy + ed = annoyed 
    • Annoy + ing = annoying
    • Play + ed = played
    • Play + ing = playing
    • Play + ful = playful
  • If a word ends in -y preceded by a consonant, change the y to -i, then add the suffix. For example –
    • Beauty + ful = beautiful
    • Try + ed = tried
    • Carry + ed = carried
    • Carry + er = carrier
  • The above rule has a variation–If a word ends in y preceded by a consonant, but the suffix carries ‘i’ as the beginning letter as in ‘ing’, then y remains the same. For example:
    • Try + ing = trying
    • Carry + ing = carrying

Y Rule Exceptions in Writing

Below words are an exception to rule 1 where the final y follows a vowel. But here the letter y changes to i.

  • day + ly = daily
  • lay + ed = laid
  • pay + ed = paid

Now read the words below. They are an exception to rule 2 where -y is preceded by a consonant. But here the letter y does not change to i

  • shy + ly = shyly
  • dry + ly = dryly
  • dry + ness = dryness
  • sly + ness = slyness

Allow the child to read such words. Also, allow the child to do the worksheet related to the Y generalization rule.

Watch the video and repeat this activity by asking the child to practice the spelling generalization with different words of the English language using the letter ‘Y’. This helps to instill confidence in forming the different words with the right spellings.

Related Videos:

To watch more language video resources, click here. 

Video Created by: Justine McNeilly


  • elementary level
  • english language
  • spelling generalization