-ABLE VS. -IBLE – PART 3

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along!

Whew! This is a long-winded answer to such a fundamental spelling question, right? Well, we have revealed some good insights on how to tackle this most troublesome of suffixes. Let’s attack the words that end in –able. We’ll finish the –ible words in our next and final post.

Words that end in –able: the most basic rule

Usually, if you have a word in English, you can just add the suffix –able, and you’ll be in good shape. For example, you can add this suffix to the word accept and correctly spell the word acceptable. Other examples that follow this rule include the following:

  • respect / respectable
  • obtain / obtainable
  • paint / paintable
  • work / workable

Words that end in –able – stems that end in e

Some words end in the letter e. If you try to add the suffix –able to such a word, then you need to remove the e before adding –able. Here are some examples:

  • excite / excitable
  • mistake / mistakable
  • observe / observable
  • perceive / perceivable
  • evade / evadable
  • conceive / conceivable

By the way…do you recognize those last two words from our last post? This rule is the reason these two words (evadable and conceivable) end in –able and not –ible. Evade and conceive exist as English words, and even though we know of evasion and conception (words with suffixes that begin with the letter i), this rule actually supersedes the previous rule.

Words that end in –able – stems that end in e: the exceptions

Exception #1: If you try to add the suffix –able to a word that ends in –ce, then keep the –e, and just add –able. This is so the letter c can retain the \s\ sound. Examples include:

  • embrace / embraceable
  • enforce / enforceable
  • finance / financeable
  • peace / peaceable

If you have a hard time with this rule, consider writing any version of the word out that you think may be right. For example, with the word embraceable, think about how it might sound if it were spelled embracable. Maybe even say the word aloud. Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? So make sure to end these words with –ceable.

Exception #2: If you try to add the suffix –able to a word that ends in –ge, then keep the –e, and just add –able. This is so the letter g can retain the \j\ sound. Examples include:

  • allege / allegeable
  • change / changeable
  • forge / forgeable
  • recharge / rechargeable

Exception #3: Well…these are just exceptions that exist just because. Really, no rhyme or reason here. Best to memorize these outright.

  • contemptible (even though contempt is a word)
  • unnameable (notice that the e is not dropped here)
  • swindleable (the e is not dropped here either)
  • smuggleable (nor here!)

Photo credit: Cesár Rincón