Is It Spelled “Preferably” or “Preferrably”?

Grammar Rules updated on  September 5, 2023 2 min read

There’s only one correct way to spell the adverb preferably, and that’s with a single r.

Why do people misspell it?

So if we can’t spell it either way, preferably or preferrably, and there’s only one right way to spell it, why do people often think this word contains double consonants? There are a couple of reasons.

The rule of doubling the r with other suffixes

Preferably comes from the root word prefer and the suffix -able. Preferable is an adjective, and preferably is an adverb.

When we add other suffixes to the root word prefer, we double the r. The spelling rule is to double the ending consonant whenever the last syllable is the one we stress:

  • preferred
  • preferring
  • preferrer

Since we often use English intuitively or don’t know the reasoning behind spelling rules, it might seem logical to add a second r with any suffix we add to this word.

Again, because the suffix -able doesn’t start with an r, preferable only has one.

The rise of incorrect pronunciation

Another reason we misspell preferably is that it’s becoming more common to pronounce it with stress on the second syllable instead of the first.

The correct pronunciation of preferably is PREF-erably, but people are increasingly pronouncing it as pre-FER-ably.

Again, this error makes sense to us because when we say the root word, we stress the second syllable: pre-FER.

The incorrect spelling preferrably seems to visually emphasize the second syllable in keeping with that pronunciation, and we think it’s correct because we’re intuitively trying to mimic the words above that have other suffixes.

But here’s your reminder that language evolves; someday, pre-FER-ably may be the correct pronunciation, and preferrably may be the correct spelling.

However, today is not that day.

Example sentences with preferably

Let’s look at a few examples of how you might use preferably in a sentence:

He should look for a job soon, preferably one with benefits.

Assignments should be submitted on time and preferably through the school platform rather than by email.

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What does preferably  mean?

Preferably is an adverb, meaning it describes how a verb is done. So preferably means something is being done because a person prefers it.

Is it pronounced preferably or preferrably?

The correct pronunciation stresses the first syllable (PREF-erably), not the second (pre-FER-ably), although more and more people have begun stressing the second syllable. Stressing the first syllable also reflects the correct spelling, which is with one r.


Hannah Skaggs

Along with Paige Pfeifer

Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content.

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