National Curriculum KS2 Y3 & Y4: Spelling

Statutory requirements

Pupils should be taught to:

  • use further prefixes and suffixes and understand how to add them (English Appendix 1)
  • spell further homophones
  • spell words that are often misspelt (English Appendix 1)
  • place the possessive apostrophe accurately in words with regular plurals [for example, girls’, boys’] and in words with irregular plurals [for example, children’s]
  • use the first two or three letters of a word to check its spelling in a dictionary
  • write from memory simple sentences, dictated by the teacher, that include words and punctuation taught so far.

Revision of work from years 1 and 2

Pay special attention to the rules for adding suffixes.

New work for years 3 and 4

Statutory requirements Rules and guidance (non-statutory) Example words (non-statutory)
Adding suffixes beginning with vowel letters to words of more than one syllable If the last syllable of a word is stressed and ends with one consonant letter which has just one vowel letter before it, the final consonant letter is doubled before any ending beginning with a vowel letter is added. The consonant letter is not doubled if the syllable is unstressed. forgetting, forgotten, beginning, beginner, prefer, preferred, gardening, gardener, limiting, limited, limitation
The /ɪ/ sound spelt y elsewhere than at the end of words These words should be learnt as needed. myth, gym, Egypt, pyramid, mystery
The /ʌ/ sound spelt ou These words should be learnt as needed. young, touch, double, trouble, country
More prefixes Most prefixes are added to the beginning of root words without any changes in spelling, but see in– below.
Like un–, the prefixes dis– and mis– have negative meanings.
dis–: disappoint, disagree, disobey
mis–: misbehave, mislead, misspell (mis + spell)
The prefix in– can mean both ‘not’ and ‘in’/‘into’. In the words given here it means ‘not’. in–: inactive, incorrect
Before a root word starting with l, in– becomes il. illegal, illegible
Before a root word starting with m or p, in– becomes im–. immature, immortal, impossible, impatient, imperfect
Before a root word starting with r, in– becomes ir–. irregular, irrelevant, irresponsible
re– means ‘again’ or ‘back’. re–: redo, refresh, return, reappear, redecorate
sub– means ‘under’. sub–: subdivide, subheading, submarine, submerge
inter– means ‘between’ or ‘among’. inter–: interact, intercity, international, interrelated (inter + related)
super– means ‘above’. super–: supermarket, superman, superstar
anti– means ‘against’. anti–: antiseptic, anti-clockwise, antisocial
auto– means ‘self’ or ‘own’. auto–: autobiography, autograph
The suffix –ation The suffix –ation is added to verbs to form nouns. The rules already learnt still apply. information, adoration, sensation, preparation, admiration
The suffix –ly The suffix –ly is added to an adjective to form an adverb. The rules already learnt still apply.
The suffix –ly starts with a consonant letter, so it is added straight on to most root words.
sadly, completely, usually (usual + ly), finally (final + ly), comically (comical + ly)
(1) If the root word ends in –y with a consonant letter before it, the y is changed to i, but only if the root word has more than one syllable.
happily, angrily
(2) If the root word ends with –le, the –le is changed to –ly. gently, simply, humbly, nobly
(3) If the root word ends with –ic, –ally is added rather than just –ly, except in the word publicly. basically, frantically, dramatically
(4) The words truly, duly, wholly.
Words with endings sounding like /ʒə/ or /tʃə/ The ending sounding like /ʒə/ is always spelt –sure. measure, treasure, pleasure, enclosure
The ending sounding like /tʃə/ is often spelt –ture, but check that the word is not a root word ending in (t)ch with an er ending – e.g. teacher, catcher, richer, stretcher. creature, furniture, picture, nature, adventure
Endings which sound like /ʒən/ If the ending sounds like /ʒən/, it is spelt as –sion. division, invasion, confusion, decision, collision, television
The suffix –ous Sometimes the root word is obvious and the usual rules apply for adding suffixes beginning with vowel letters. poisonous, dangerous, mountainous, famous, various
Sometimes there is no obvious root word. tremendous, enormous, jealous
–our is changed to –or before –ous is added. humorous, glamorous, vigorous
A final ‘e’ of the root word must be kept if the /dʒ/ sound of ‘g’ is to be kept. courageous, outrageous
If there is an /i:/ sound before the –ous ending, it is usually spelt as i, but a few words have e. serious, obvious, curious, hideous, spontaneous, courteous
Endings which sound like /ʃən/, spelt –tion, –sion, –ssion, –cian Strictly speaking, the suffixes are –ion and –ian. Clues about whether to put t, s, ss or c before these suffixes often come from the last letter or letters of the root word.
–tion is the most common spelling. It is used if the root word ends in t or te. invention, injection, action, hesitation, completion
–ssion is used if the root word ends in ss or –mit. expression, discussion, confession, permission, admission
–sion is used if the root word ends in d or se. Exceptions: attend – attention, intend – intention. expansion, extension, comprehension, tension
–cian is used if the root word ends in c or cs. musician, electrician, magician, politician, mathematician
Words with the /k/ sound spelt ch (Greek in origin) scheme, chorus, chemist, echo, character
Words with the /ʃ/ sound spelt ch (mostly French in origin) chef, chalet, machine, brochure
Words ending with the /g/ sound spelt –gue and the /k/ sound spelt –que (French in origin) league, tongue, antique, unique
Words with the /s/ sound spelt sc (Latin in origin) In the Latin words from which these words come, the Romans probably pronounced the c and the k as two sounds rather than one – /s/ /k/. science, scene, discipline, fascinate, crescent
Words with the /eɪ/ sound spelt ei, eigh, or ey vein, weigh, eight, neighbour, they, obey
Possessive apostrophe with plural words The apostrophe is placed after the plural form of the word; –s is not added if the plural already ends in –s, but is added if the plural does not end in –s (i.e. is an irregular plural – e.g. children’s). girls’, boys’, babies’, children’s, men’s, mice’s
(Note: singular proper nouns ending in an s use the ’s suffix e.g. Cyprus’s population)
Homophones and near-homophones accept/except, affect/effect, ball/bawl, berry/bury, brake/break, fair/fare, grate/great, groan/grown, here/hear, heel/heal/he’ll, knot/not, mail/male, main/mane, meat/meet, medal/meddle, missed/mist, peace/piece, plain/plane, rain/rein/reign, scene/seen, weather/whether, whose/who’s

Notes and guidance (non-statutory)

Pupils should learn to spell new words correctly and have plenty of practice in spelling them.

As in years 1 and 2, pupils should continue to be supported in understanding and applying the concepts of word structure (see English Appendix 2).

Pupils need sufficient knowledge of spelling in order to use dictionaries efficiently.

Word list – years 3 and 4

  • accident(ally)
  • actual(ly)
  • address
  • answer
  • appear
  • arrive
  • believe
  • bicycle
  • breath
  • breathe
  • build
  • busy/business
  • calendar
  • caught
  • centre
  • century
  • certain
  • circle
  • complete
  • consider
  • continue
  • decide
  • describe
  • different
  • difficult
  • disappear
  • early
  • earth
  • eight/eighth
  • enough
  • exercise
  • experience
  • experiment
  • extreme
  • famous
  • favourite
  • February
  • forward(s)
  • fruit
  • grammar
  • group
  • guard
  • guide
  • heard
  • heart
  • height
  • history
  • imagine
  • increase
  • important
  • interest
  • island
  • knowledge
  • learn
  • length
  • library
  • material
  • medicine
  • mention
  • minute
  • natural
  • naughty
  • notice
  • occasion(ally)
  • often
  • opposite
  • ordinary
  • particular
  • peculiar
  • perhaps
  • popular
  • position
  • possess(ion)
  • possible
  • potatoes
  • pressure
  • probably
  • promise
  • purpose
  • quarter
  • question
  • recent
  • regular
  • reign
  • remember
  • sentence
  • separate
  • special
  • straight
  • strange
  • strength
  • suppose
  • surprise
  • therefore
  • though/although
  • thought
  • through
  • various
  • weight
  • woman/women

Notes and guidance (non-statutory)

Teachers should continue to emphasise to pupils the relationships between sounds and letters, even when the relationships are unusual. Once root words are learnt in this way, longer words can be spelt correctly, if the rules and guidance for adding prefixes and suffixes are also known.


business: once busy is learnt, with due attention to the unusual spelling of the /i/ sound as ‘u’, business can then be spelt as busy + ness, with the y of busy changed to i according to the rule.

disappear: the root word appear contains sounds which can be spelt in more than one way so it needs to be learnt, but the prefix dis– is then simply added to appear.

Understanding the relationships between words can also help with spelling. Examples:

  • bicycle is cycle (from the Greek for wheel) with bi– (meaning ‘two’) before it.
  • medicine is related to medical so the /s/ sound is spelt as c.
  • opposite is related to oppose, so the schwa sound in opposite is spelt as o.


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