How to remember the spelling of definitely

A student recently refused to believe me when I corrected his spelling of “definately” and then he had a minor breakdown when his iPhone confirmed that he’d been spelling it wrongly for the last five years or so. He didn’t seem convinced either by the method that I use to remember the spelling, which is to sound it out as “de fin ite ly”, pronouncing the problem syllable as “ait”, to rhyme with “fight”. I then suddenly realised that it starts the same way as the much easier to remember word “definition”, which seemed to be an “aha” moment to the last few doubters/ panickers. We’ll see in their next IELTS essays if it actually worked…

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5 Responses to How to remember the spelling of definitely

  1. Richard says:

    I think it is too embedded among native speakers of English to convince all learners that the ‘definately’ form is wrong.

  2. Even to myself as a native speaker I used to say ‘def -i-nite-ly to myself before I wrote it down, particularly when I was younger. One that got my recently was opportunity. I would have sworn it was spelt oppurtunity; although after rushing off to a dictionary after it was pointed out to me, I won’t forget the proper spelling again!

  3. alexcase says:

    I still do have to sound it out for myself. Think I’ll borrow your way of doing so for class, because then I can just write “night” about it to show the way I do so.

    “Opportunity” has the same problem, which is a schwa which could be spelt about any way at all (something which I forgot to mention I also explained to that group of students about “definitely”). For some reason I don’t have problems with opportunity, the two Os seems to just look right when I write it down.

  4. The opportunity mishap was a few years ago now – when I look at it now I can’t see how I thought a ‘U’ was better as it looks so strange. It must be incredibly difficult for foreign students to get their head around all this stuff!

  5. Sabrina says:

    I think this a the most misspelled word ever in the english language. I like your idea of saying that it goes along with definition – way easier to remember!

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