Accounting for the presence of < o > in < love >

Our still provisional spelling < luve > is subject to a further orthographic convention that concerns the juxtaposition of < u > and < v >.

The < uv > convention

Just as the practice arose of avoiding writing < uu > to avoid “collision” with the letter < w > ‘double U’, it similarly applied to the avoidance of < uv >; we are reminded again of the fact that, until comparatively recently, < u > and < v > were allophones of the same letter.

We can state this Modern English spelling convention like this.


 Avoid writing < uv > in a word of basic English origin.

The question then arises as to which letter is substituted for the < u >. We see from the standard spelling of < love > that the substitute letter is < o >.

lslashUve love

Here is the start of an evidence bank of words in which the pronunciation / ᴧv / would initially suggest the spelling < uv > but where it is actually < ov >.

love      dove      above      glove
oven      shovel

This convention is a result of the fact that the letters < v > and < u > are, in origin, variations of the same letter.

It is because, until comparatively recently, the letter forms < u > and < v > were variations of the same letter that the avoidance of writing < uu > also applies to avoiding writing < uv >.

We could represent our conclusions like this.


We might represent the development of the spelling of < love > a few centuries ago in a way that illustrates how the earlier spellings are visually less accessible than the much clearer modern standard form.


Other cases of < o > replacing an expected < u >

ouWe could regard < o > is a paired alternative to default < u >. Here are several common words in which < o > is used where, if the bogus ‘alphabetic principle’ of phonics were true, the letter < u > would be expected.

among      come      mother      other      ton
 won         some      honey        front   monkey

In several spellings where < o > is preferred to < u > there is a clear orthographic reason for the choice. The word < month > is related to < moon > and Monday. (< Sunday >, however, is not spelled with < o > as it is related to < sun >.)

  • You will find resources for understanding the spelling of the days of the week in Kit 2 Theme L .

The word < none > is the negative of < one >. The Old English negative was < ne >, so < none > can be regarded as a type of contraction of < ne + one >.

  • The reason for < o > in the spelling of < one > itself is given in Kit 3 Theme J which deals with the spelling of numbers.

A summary of < u > and < v > orthographic conventions

arrowApart from the pronouns < thou > and < you >, no complete English word has final < u >.
arrowIn a phonological spelling (which is, by definition, provisional) the sequence < uv > is rewritten as < ov >.
arrowIn a phonological spelling the sequence < uu > is rewritten
as < ou >.
arrowIn a phonological spelling the sequence < wu > is rewritten as < wo >.