Writing for Business

Nov 15 2013   11:45AM GMT

How to tell your -ables from your -ibles: Admissible or admissable?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang According to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, evidence discovered indirectly as a result of an illegal method is not ______________.
a. admissible
b. admissable

Answer: a

Both -able and -ible mean able to be  — in this case, able to be admitted — and they stem from the Latin abilis and ibilis, which both also mean essentially the same thing.

Able is what is known as a living or productive suffix. That means that new adjectives can still be created by adding able to existing words.

On the other hand, -ible  can’t be used that way. If you know which adjectives end in ible, then you’re set. They aren’t making any new ones.

The Oxford Dictionaries blog offers a few tips on how to make an educated guess about ible vs. able, but none of the methods are foolproof.

They provide this table of common -ible adjectives:

accessible eligible invincible responsible
audible expressible legible reversible
collapsible feasible negligible risible
contemptible flexible ostensible suggestible
convertible gullible perceptible susceptible
digestible horrible permissible tangible
divisible incredible plausible terrible

Some of the spellings seem obvious and others less so. I feel compelled to admit that I had to look up admissible yesterday — hence the post.

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