Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

The English language is filled with all sorts of different rules for how you conjugate verbs or how you convert one type of word into another. For example, it is generally true that if you add “-ed” to the end of a verb, you effectively form the past tense form of that verb. The problem is that there are so many exceptions to that rule. The same can be said about nouns like “price” that you want to convert into some sort of adjective form.

When converting to an adjective or an adverb, one of the general rules of thumb is to add a “-y” to the end of the word. For instance, eggs that run can be described as runny. We double the “n” at the end of “run” so that the resulting word doesn’t look like it would be pronounced as “roon-ee” (runy). If you want to say that the main market for a minivan is the urban family, then you could say that the minivan is “mainly” targeted at this demographic.

So, what do you do with the word price? If something is deemed to be expensive, we might say that it is pricy… or is it pricey?

Both forms of the word are relatively new to the English language, as I understand it, and they’re both listed as variations of one another in many dictionaries. However, if you want to say that the Belgian waffles at Cafe Medina have a high price, it is generally more accepted to say that the waffles are pricey, rather than to say they are pricy. But why do we keep that “e” in there? After all, we would convert “slime” to “slimy” and not “slimey,” right?

The trouble is that this English grammar rule appears to be terribly inconsistent. Let’s take some words that are similar in form to price. Something that is very cold or full of ice could be described as icy. I’ve seen “icey” used, but that spelling seems to be nonstandard. Then again, “dice” somehow turns into “dicey,” while “spice” turns into “spicy.” In some instances, you keep the “e” and in other instances, you drop it. As far as I can gather, there is no real rhyme or reason to it.

And you wonder why English is arguably one of the toughest second languages to learn in the world!