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-able and -ible

  • The suffixes -able and -ible both mean capable of or suitable for, but we treat them differently. The most important difference is that -able is a living suffix, meaning we can affix it to virtually any verb without using a hyphen, while -ible is not used to make new words. It lives on mainly in old words passed down through the centuries.


     

    As the living suffix, -able is useful for coining new words, though we often have to ignore spell check when it comes to -able coinages. For example, our spell check disapproves of sanctionable, channelable, overthrowable, redoable, and torturable, but these are perfectly good words and do not require hyphenation.

    To form an -able word, treat the verb as you do when making an -ing participle. For example, we make moving from move by dropping the e and adding -ing. So, to make move‘s -able adjective, we drop the e and add -ablemovable.

    But when creating an -able word, make sure there is not already an equivalent -ible word (see below). For instance, convertable is superfluous because we already have convertible. All accepted -ible words are listed in the dictionary.

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    ible adjectives

    Unlike –able, -ible isn’t used to make new words. It exists only in words retained from earlier stages of English. Here are a few of the most common words with the suffix:

    accessible
    admissible
    audible
    convertible
    controvertible
    credible
    defensible
    digestible
    discernible
    dismissible
    edible
    eligible
    exhaustible
    fallible
    feasible
    flexible
    gullible
    horrible
    invincible
    legible
    ostensible
    perceptible
    permissible
    plausible
    possible
    reprehensible
    susceptible
    terrible
    visible

    Many -ible adjectives have corresponding -able words from which they have differentiated over time. For example, forcible and forceable have different meanings. Other -ible words have -able variants that are identical in meaning—for example, extendable and extendible.


    Comments

    1. Thank you for the information!!!!!

    2. Discernible says

      Very interesting. I just typed “discernable” and Word let me correct it to “Discernible” and I was like wait a minute.. that is dumb because it is ABLE to be discerned and therefore is discernable, why is it -ible!? haha Thanks!

    3. Miss Walking Dictionary says

      Umm… no it’s actually “discernible”. Many times, the English language has weird exceptions to words…

    4. lovegirl2039 says

      i agree with Miss Walking Dictionary!!!! im studying for a spelling bee and so thnx for posting this! <3

    5. Marcos Hernandez says

      To the list of the most common -ible words please add “collectible”. This is probably one of the most frequently misspelled words in America! I see it on the outside of antique stores all the time, and it’s usually misspelled as if it was an -able word.

    6. Brian Connelly says

      Fantastic information! I’ve been looking for ways to help my students use “living” suffixes, this was very useful. Thanks for the help

    7. سفيرة الصحراء says

      useful information

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