From the archives...
The following question was originally posted on the (now discontinued) LOE Forum.
Can you please explain the reason for the final e at the end of the words immediate and guide?
Guide is easy: the silent e makes the i say its long sound (Spelling Rule 12.1). The phonogram GU says /g/. This phonogram is used in a number of words before E and I, as well as before y in "guy," before a in "guard," etc. The U does not function as a vowel in these words; it is part of the two-letter consonant GU.
Immediate is a little more tricky, because you need to understand both the morphology and how English vowels function in unstressed syllables.
The A in immediate is saying schwa, the unstressed vowel sound (written ə; it can sound like short I or short U). Any vowel can say the schwa sound in an unstressed syllable or unstressed word in English. (You can learn more about it on our blog or on our YouTube channel.)
Sometimes the vowel that says schwa is heard more clearly in a given word when we emphasize the word (think the or a). Other times, a vowel is heard more clearly in a derivative word with a different syllable stress (think infinite, where the second vowel is a schwa, vs. infinity where the second vowel is a clear short i).
Although the a in the last syllable of immediate is pronounced as a schwa, the long a vowel is clearly heard in other words with the same root, like mediate and mediation.
To help students clearly identify what vowel is making the schwa sound when we are teaching a new word, we use a technique called say-to-spell in which we articulate the vowel's 'true' sound while discussing the spelling: im-me-di-āte. Although the E is no longer needed for pronunciation, the spelling is retained because of the root, and we use Say to Spell to help students develop an auditory "picture" of the word. This makes it easier to understand and remember how it is spelled.