LITERACY: Making HAVE Behave to End Sight Word Frustration

For most fluent readers, it can be hard to imagine how the sight word "have" can be tricky for emerging readers. Yet many parents drilling the Dolch sight words find "have" is misread over and over again, made to rhyme with "gave" and "behave".

The child is likely making this mistake because he or she is diligently applying the guidance that a silent final E makes the preceding vowel say its name. And for many English speakers, that's the only purpose known for a silent final E. But, that only explains half of the words with a silent final E and has nothing to do with why there is a silent final E in "have".

So, why is there a silent final E in "have"? Check out rule #3 in the list posted here: Rule 3 states that English words do not end in I, U, V, or J. The silent final E in "have" is there to prevent the word from ending in V, just as in other words like "solve".

Now, I bet you can think of lots of words that end in I, U, V, or J. Note, though, that the rule specifies that it's English words that do not end in I, U, V, or J. Ski is Norwegian. Mississippi is Algonquian. Hawaii is, well, Hawaiian. Tofu is Japanese. English has a remarkable ability to ingest words from other languages, and young scholars who know this rule often love being able to spot foreign words.

There are indeed a few exceptions to this rule and the others. In fact, 2% of English words are exceptions to the 31 spelling rules and 74 phonograms used in the Logic of English method. The other 98%, though, are phonetically regular.

I, you, and thou are native English words that are exceptions to the rule that English words do not end in I, U, V, or J. Students can be taught simply that "you and I are special."

These insights come from Uncovering the Logic of English by Denise Eide. It's an amazing read for parents and others wishing to understand more about how our language works.

Do you know a student who has struggled with the word "have"? Did this explanation help them learn to read it? Please share your comments below.


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