Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Spelling words ending in ‘-able’ and ‘ible’

Some adjectives end in the letters ‘-able’ or ‘ible’. They mostly refer to the ability or necessity to do something e.g. ‘washable’ (you can wash it), ‘visible (you can see it), ‘emailable’ (you can email it), and the pronunciation is the same. So how on earth do you know which spelling to use?

There are several approaches we can take depending on the person who is trying to learn it.
If I have a student who really struggles with spelling of even very common and simple words, then whether to use ‘-able’ or ‘-ible’ isn’t their greatest priority and I would use Hint 1:


Hint 1: It is much more common for words to end in ‘able’ than ‘ible’. So if you don’t know and there’s no dictionary around, use ‘able’ – you’ve got about a 5:1 chance of being right!

But obviously that’s not good enough for some people. If I was teaching someone who had a reasonable knowledge of the English language I’d get them to look at some ‘-able’ and ‘-ible’ words and notice the following:

Hint 2: Generally we use ‘-able’ when a complete word remains (or just without a final silent ‘e’, or a ‘y’ changed to ‘i’) when we take the suffix away. So for example, ‘fashionable’ – ‘fashion’ is a complete word, so add ‘-able’. But ‘edible’ – ‘ed’ is not a complete word meaning ‘eat’ so it’s ‘-ible’. Of course (being English!) this isn’t always true but it’s a good guide. If that doesn’t help, try this:

Hint 3: Play around with the root word and see if you can make any words with ‘-ation’ with it. So if you don’t know if it’s ‘applicable’ or ‘applicible’, think of ‘application’. If you can make an ‘-ation’ word then it’s probably ‘-able’. So here it’s ‘applicable’. But if you play around with it and can only make an ‘-ition’ ‘-tion’, ‘-sion’, ‘cian’ or ‘-ion’ word it’s much more likely to be ‘-ible’. For example, it’s ‘visible’ because of ‘vision’.

This should satisfy most learners but let’s say I am teaching someone who has studied Latin or is a bit of a linguist. They are not usually the ones who come to me with spelling problems but if they do:

Hint 4: If the root comes from a Latin verb ending in ‘are’, use ‘able’. If it comes from an ‘ire’ or ‘ere’ word use ‘ible’.

Hint 5 is for anyone:

Hint 5: New words are often made with ‘-able’, but not ‘-ible’: ‘emailable’, biodegradable’, ‘clickable’, ‘offsetable’, ‘recession-proofable’. (I may have made the last two up but they are allowable!)

17 comments:

  1. Thanks!!! This really helped!

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  2. i am learning this rule in school right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  3. Glad it's useful. This is one of the most visited pages on the blog!

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  4. i need words that end in able i cnt find them

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  5. Hello little_mizz_sportii!

    To find words that have a particular spelling pattern, go to http://www.lextutor.ca/concordancers/concord_e.html Click the arrow next to Keywords and choose 'ends'. In the next box wite 'able' (or another spelling pattern). Then choose the biggest corpus and click the yellow Get Concordance button. You should get loads of examples.

    Johanna

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  6. examples to help you
    ::::
    able
    available
    fable
    uncomfortable
    breakable
    cable
    chewable
    adoptable
    vegetable
    table
    acceptable
    unbelievable
    suitable
    :::
    ible
    Flexible
    terrible
    possible
    horrible
    sensible
    bible
    responsible
    incredible
    credible
    edible
    mixable
    visible

    hope this helps

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  7. yay!I am learning this stuff at... now. :-) thanx

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  8. thanx. This helped me alot at miller middle school test thingy. :-)

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  9. thanks. This helped me alot.

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  10. thanx. THis helped me on my test. >:-)

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  11. thanx!!!! this a big help me sa learning this in school right now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :-)

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  12. Every time I have made a list of these with students the 'ables' win hands down. I make lists of literal meanings:
    breakable - able to be broken
    chewable - able to be chewed
    acceptable - able to be accepted

    I'd never include table or bible - wot you thinking?

    We looked at 'ation' words this year in a similar way.

    Last year my class was red hot on 'ery' words too eg swannery, pottery.

    I have a thing for the 'ling' words myself, duckling, foundling, puffling, fledgeling etc

    I try to have a balance of this in the classroom, alongside semantically linked words eg test, tests, testing, tested, contest, etc and these words that we spend a lot of time on come from reading passages that are targeted for a bunch of reasons, but later we can put the 'spelling words' back into a cloze passage to test them in a meaningful way.

    Don't start me on the importance of songs and handwriting!

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  13. Looks like we think in similar ways, Megan. (Hope you enjoy the book, by the way!)

    I've just had to look up what 'puffling' means! A baby puffin! So not a *puffinling* then!

    I'd really like to get you started on handwriting and songs if you mean they are related. Because I can't see how.

    Johanna

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  14. thanks helped alot with homework

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  15. Hi. Love all the way from India!!! I love your blog. Its amazing and really helps me through school and the spelling tests. Once again, thanks!!
    Rhea

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  16. I am learning this and school too, it really helped me out writing my homework, Thankyou :)

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