Despite the fact that the rule “I before E except after C” holds true most of the time, many people have trouble believing that words with the “ee” sound in them should be spelled with an “IE.” The problem is that in English (and only in English), the letter I sounds like “aye” rather than “ee,” as it does in the several European languages from which we have borrowed a host of words. If you had studied French in high school you would have learned that this word is pronounced “knee-YES” in that language, and it would be easier to remember.

Americans in particular misspell a host of German-Jewish names because they have trouble remembering that in that language IE is pronounced “ee” and EI is pronounced “aye.” The possessors of such names are inconsistent about this matter in English. “Wein” changes from “vine” to “ween,” but “Klein” remains “kline.”

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