One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Words ending in -able or –ible
These endings are found in adjectives that usually mean ‘able to be …’. For example:
available: able to be used or obtained
audible: able to be heard
breakable: able to be broken
visible: able to be seen
Words ending in -able
As a general rule, there are lots more adjectives ending in -able, but here are some tips to help you make the right choice:
- When a word ends in -able, the main part of the word (i.e. the bit that comes before the -able ending) is usually a complete word in itself. For example: bearable (from bear), readable, (from read), and acceptable (from accept). This is also true when the base word ends in an e that's dropped before the -able ending is added (e.g.advise; advisable or inflate; inflatable) or where it ends in a consonant that's doubled when the ending is added (e.g. forget; forgettable or regret; regrettable).
- If the main part of the word ends with a ‘hard’ c (pronounced like the c in cab) or a ‘hard’ g (pronounced like the g in game) then the ending is always -able. For example, navigable or amicable.
Here are some common words that end in -able:
likeable; peaceable; debatable; pleasurable; adaptable; inimitable; capable; adorable; desirable; justifiable; preferable; disposable; knowledgeable; amiable; durable; laughable; fashionable; reliable; excitable; lovable; believable; excusable; manageable; serviceable; measurable; sizeable; noticeable; suitable; changeable; tolerable; objectionable; comfortable; payable; impressionable; conceivable; operable; transferable.
Words ending in -ible
- When a word ends in -ible, it's less likely that the part before the ending will be a recognizable English word. Take permissible or audible, for example: ‘permiss’ and ‘aud’ are not English words.
- This is only a guideline and there are exceptions to the general principle. For example, accessible and collapsible both end in -ible even though they are formed from the recognizable words access and collapse.
Here are some common words ending in -ible:
illegible; responsible; eligible; incredible; reversible; invincible; suggestible; contemptible; feasible; negligible; susceptible; convertible; flexible; ostensible; tangible; gullible; terrible; horrible; plausible.
For more on words ending in -able and -ible, head over to the blog where we explore -ables and -ibles as pluralized nouns.
Back to spelling.
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