Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 29          April 13, 2003
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The Problem
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At a training I conducted at Reading Area Community College last week, an adult education teacher asked if I had a mnemonic clue for the reading of the words come and came.  She said that she has one student who just can’t remember which one is which.  The problem with the reading of these two words is similar to the confusion between horse for house (mnemonic clue 25).  The teacher stated that the Mnemonic Clue 19 for the reading and the spelling of because, become and became did not help her student with the reading of come, came, become and became.  The adult student who confuses come and came when reading has been confusing those words for years, since he began to learn to read in elementary school.  He has both words stored in his memory and the right/left discrimination problem makes it difficult for him to remember whether the word he is reading is come or came.  Teaching this person to hear the sounds of the vowels does not work because the right/left confusion makes it difficult for the person to remember which vowel makes which sound.  The student usually understands the vowel sound when it is pointed out or when someone pronounces the sound and explains it, but on his own the person finds himself back to the quandary which letter makes which sound, which word is come and which word is came.   

The Mnemonic: 

 The mnemonic clue for come and came is related to the structure of language, another subject that is greatly affected by the right/left confusion.  These two words represent the present and past tense, a concept that most individuals have no difficulty understanding but struggle to identify when reading.  The person can speak about events that are happening now and events that happened in the past.  However, when it comes to matching which word goes with which tense, the person often guesses, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong. 

By associating the word now and the o in now with the present, the person can remember the statement, “I said to come here, now   The o in now is linked to the o in come.  For most students, weighting the pair this way will remediate the guessing. 
Since learning a clue for both words often results in confusion, only teach the clue for came if the student needs help with the concept of tense.  The statement “He came in the past,” can be added, linking the a in past to the a in came.    

     A number of teachers and students have asked to have the Mnemonic Clue of the Week sent to them each week. If you would like to receive this service, send your e-mail address to  
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Richard Cooper, PhD.