Brandon's Notepad

December 13, 2009

-Ible Vs. -Able

Filed under: English,Language — Brandon @ 8:00 pm

There is apparently no definitive spelling rule to determine when to use -able or -ible at the end of a word. The primary heuristic is to evaluate the root word as follows:

  • If the root is a full word, use -able.
  • If the root is not a full word, use -ible.
  • If the root is a word that ends in ‘e’, drop the ‘e’ and append -able.
  • If the root is a word that ends in ‘y’, change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ and (thus) use -ible.
  • If the root must be modified in any other way, use -ible.

There is a non-trivial number of exceptions. Also, it has been observed that most words require the -able ending, so if you have to guess, the odds favor -able.


Sources
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_spelible.html [broken link]
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/660/01/
http://www.spelling.hemscott.net/ends8.html
http://www.paulnoll.com/Books/Clear-English/English-ible-able.html
http://literacy.kent.edu/Midwest/Materials/ndakota/spelling/lesson6.html

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