Accessibility links

Breaking News

Able or Ible

Ask a Teacher: "-Able" or "-Ible"
Ask a Teacher: "-Able" or "-Ible"
Able or Ible
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:07:09 0:00

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about how to use “-able” and “-ible” suffixes.


Hello teacher!

I am Md. Abdur Rahman from Bangladesh. I am a student and have been learning English for a long time. To improve my listening and speaking skills every night I listen to the VOA English podcast. However, I am not good at English spelling mainly when I write sentences. I feel confused over suffixes like “-able” vs “-ible.” How can I be an expert in English spelling?

Please help me and share your valuable suggestions.

Sincerely yours,

Md. Abdur Rahman.


Thank you, Abdur Rahman for writing to us. English spelling is difficult even for native speakers. The English writing system is old, and it does not match up with how we pronounce things now.

But there are “rules” and methods we can use that might help improve our spelling ability.

We add the suffixes “-able” and “-ible” to the ends of words to create an adjective meaning “able to,” for example, “fixable.”

I broke the coffee pot. Do you think it’s fixable?

We pronounce both endings with a “schwa.” It is used in expressing unstressed central vowels, like in the word visible.

Vowel Space
Vowel Space

If you drive out to the countryside, the stars are even more visible!

The ending “-able” is more common because it is considered a “living” suffix. This means that we can create new words with it.

We do not use the suffix “-ible” to make new words because it is used for Latin-based words. And there are no new Latin words, as it is now a dead language with no native speakers.

While there are always exceptions to spelling rules in English, we do have a few rules that can help us figure out which spelling to use.

Let’s start with “-able.”


We add “-able” to full words, often dropping an “e” in the process.

Adorable is a good example. You start with the word “adore,” which means to love or like very much. Now, we drop the “e” from “adore” and put “able” in its place

I saw the most adorable dog on my walk.

In this sentence, adorable could be substituted with “cute.”

There are exceptions though, so watch out for words like “available” and “capable.” If you take the suffix off, the roots of these words cannot stand alone.

If a word ends in a /k/ or /g/ sound, use “-able,” like the word “despicable.”

Their favorite movie is “Despicable Me.”

FILE - Steve Carell, a cast member in "Despicable Me 2," poses with a minion at the American premiere of the film at Universal Citywalk on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Universal City, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
FILE - Steve Carell, a cast member in "Despicable Me 2," poses with a minion at the American premiere of the film at Universal Citywalk on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Universal City, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Let’s move onto “-ible.”


Remember that the number of words with “-ible” will not change because there is a limited number of words from Latin that we use with the suffix. Since it is not a living suffix, we cannot add it to form new words.

Most -ible words cannot stand on their own. They need the suffix to be a word. For example, “possible.”

“Poss” is not a word. It needs the suffix “-ible” to be “possible.”

But like the suffix “-able,” there are exceptions to this rule.

Like the word flexible. “Flex” can be a word on its own.

Remember the spelling rules

For both suffixes you should remember general spelling rules.

One rule is especially notable.

You should drop the “e” on the end of a word when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.

For example, “likable.”

She was very likable in high school.

There is an exception to this rule.

Do not drop the “e” when words end in “ce” or “ge.” This has to do with the sounds /g/ or /s/. The letter “e” is needed to keep the consonant sound the same.

For example: Danceable and Changeable

Latin music is so danceable!

The date is changeable for the tickets.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

pronounce v. to make the sound of (a word or letter) with your voice

unstressedadj. not having an accent

voweln. speech sounds made with your mouth open and your tongue in the middle of your mouth not touching your teeth, lips, etc.

visible adj. capable of being seen

oddsn. the possibility that something will happen

cute adj. having a pleasing, youthful appearance

despicable — adj. very bad or unpleasant: deserving to be despised

flexible adj. willing to change or to try different things

consonants n. a speech sound (such as /p/, /d/, or /s/) that is made by partly or completely stopping the flow of air breathed out from the mouth


Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. We have a new comment system. Here is how it works:

  1. Write your comment in the box.
  2. Under the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
  3. Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you may create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It is free.

Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.