An ‘e’ on the end of words is there for a number of reasons. Most commonly it is part of a split digraph indicating that the vowel before the consonant will be pronounced as a long vowel sound (rat-rate, pet-Pete, win-wine, hop-hope, cut-cute).
However, there are several other reasons that words end with an unpronounced ‘e’ and each of these are related to a rule.
No English word ends with a j, v or q and rarely u or i.
This rule explains why there is an ‘e’ on the end of give, have, love and cheque (‘q’ is always followed by ‘u’).
Use ‘ss’ or ‘se’, not ‘s’, at the end of base words.
Use ‘ss’ after a short vowel (fuss, mess, kiss), otherwise use ‘se’ (horse, goose, rinse). This rule has apparently arisen to quickly indicate that the word is not a plural (‘rins’ could look like the plural of ‘rin’).
Use ‘zz’ or ‘ze’, not ‘z’, at the end of base words.
Similar to the above rule, you use ‘zz’ after a short vowel (buzz), otherwise you use ‘ze’ (breeze).
‘e’, ‘i’ and ‘y’ change ‘c’ into /s/ and ‘g’ into /j/.
Most commonly ‘c’ is used to represent /k/ (cat, cuddle, cross). However, when followed by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’ these letters indicate it should be pronounced as /s/ (cent, circus, cycle). If the ‘ce’ occurs at the end of the word, the ‘e’ indicates that the ‘c’ will be pronounced /s/, but by itself it is nor representing any other sound (chance, farce, peace).
Similarly, most commonly ‘g’ is used to represent /g/ (grow, glad, gust). However, when followed by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’ these letters indicate it should be pronounced as /j/ (gent, giant, gypsy). If the ‘ge’ occurs at the end of the word, the ‘e’ indicates that the ‘g’ will be pronounced /j/, but by itself it is nor representing any other sound (orange, barge, ledge).
For words ending in ‘or’ add an ‘e’ (unless the ‘or’ is a suffix).
Think of words such as shore, before, score, but not visitor, doctor or tractor because in these words the ‘or’ is a suffix meaning a person who or a thing that.
Every syllable needs a vowel.
This rule explains the presence of the final, unpronounced ‘e’ in words like little, candle and people.
Indictor that the word is a content word.
Content words have specific meanings, can be defined in isolation are usually stress in sentences, are the principal concern of dictionaries and tend to be nouns, verbs, adjective and adverbs. In contrast, function words have little meaning of their own, give information about the function of the content words are usually unstressed in sentences, are the main concern of grammar books and tend to be conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, helping verbs (is, are) and articles.
As a general rule, content words consist of at least three letters which explains why ‘bye’ and ‘ore’ have an ‘e’ on the end, but ‘by’ and ‘or’ do not.
Part of a grapheme.
Sometimes there is an ‘e’ on the end of a word because it is part of a digraph (toe, glue) or trigraph (bare).
Changing pronunciation and etymology.
Sometimes a word contains a final ‘e’ because in the past the word was pronounced different to how it is pronounced now. In Australia, role is pronounced the same as roll, but it used to be pronounced with the same /oa/ sound as bone.
There is no reason for taste, paste and waste to have a final ‘e’, but that ‘e’ is present because they were all taken from old French and that is how they were spelled in that language.
Word in which the final ‘e’ is pronounced.
There are a few words in which the final ‘e’ is pronounced (catastrophe, recipe). These words have mostly come into English via French in which the ‘e’ has been written as é and is pronounced as /ee/.