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  1. #1
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Word ending ible/able

    A delightful young student in my class of advanced English, asked me this morning why some words ended in 'ible' and some with 'able', e.g. irresistible / understandable.
    For the first time in many moons, I was stuck for an answer.
    Who can help?
    Many thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Hamburg; 05-Nov-2006 at 11:16.

  2. #2
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Well, I know why (historically). But I'd be interested to know if there's a useful rule of thumb for English learners.

    The answer is in the suffixes: Latin -ibilis and English -able; so, as long you know the derivations, it's easy

    b

  3. #3
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Thanks for the prompt reply BobK.
    If this is a case of Latin knowledge, then I'd better start right away with books I and II.
    Oh well, Nihil sine labore or something like that.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Far be it from me to suggest anything so laborious. It'd be ridiculous to teach ELT students Latin just for the background. But a background knowledge of Latin helps in some cases (and hinders in others - I had to rethink my understanding of indirect objects just a few hours ago).

    Incidentally, when I used the expression "the English suffix -able" I didn't mean it was English in itself, but rather that it was added on to English words as a productive mechanism in the development of English words: understand -able.

    This is the way we get a few couplets in English -Vble words: "defendable" (defend -able) vs "defensible" (defens_ -ibilis) - they don't mean the same, but both words exist (although not everyone uses the second).

    b

  5. #5
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I'd be interested to know if there's a useful rule of thumb for English learners.
    OK folks, is there anyone out there with a 'rule of the thumb' for this situation?
    Every little piece of information could help in a bigger way than you think.
    Thanks again in advance.

  6. #6
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Quote Originally Posted by Hamburg View Post
    OK folks, is there anyone out there with a 'rule of the thumb' for this situation?
    Every little piece of information could help in a bigger way than you think.
    Thanks again in advance.
    Don't tell me I've stumped the forum with this question!
    Is there nobody out there with a simple way to discern between able and ible at the end of a word?
    C'mon mates, get in there

  7. #7
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Here you go Hamburg, Easy peasy

    Spelling: Suffixes -ible and -able

  8. #8
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Curmudgeon, the drinks are on me, Mate.
    Set them up barman

  9. #9
    curmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Cheers

    There are a few exceptions though so not entirely foolproof.

  10. #10
    Hamburg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Word ending ible/able

    Quote Originally Posted by curmudgeon View Post
    Cheers
    There are a few exceptions though so not entirely foolproof.
    Nae problem, ah'll findum.
    Thanks again

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