English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I came across this word in the answer provided by Robusto for the question about Thank you.

Because the last e in service is not pronounced, I thought it should be deleted when service is appended by able.

I guess the reason for serviceable may be related to the fact that the i in service is pronounced as [ɪ] but not [aɪ].

However, I am not sure, and I would like to know the reason behind that.

share|improve this question
One clue would be that "serviceable" shows up in the dictionary, whereas "servicable" does not. – Robusto Feb 28 '11 at 3:11
@Robusto, I know. I had googled it before I asked this question. I just want to know the reason. – user3812 Feb 28 '11 at 3:53
Relevant: Adjective form of collide — collideable or collidable? and the section on -able in Wikipedia's list of American and British English spelling differences. In particular, "Both forms of the language retain the silent e when it is necessary to preserve a soft c, ch, or g, such as in traceable, cacheable, changeable" – ShreevatsaR Feb 28 '11 at 6:11
up vote 17 down vote accepted

The c is pronounced like k except when it comes before i or e: then it is pronounced like s. In service, c comes before e, so that it is pronounced s. If we add -able, we should normally remove the e, as you said; but then we'd get servicable. Because c before a is pronounced k, the sound of the word would change profoundly; that is undesirable, which is why we add an extra e: serviceable. The same applies to g: change => chang-able => changeable.

share|improve this answer

Because "servicable" would be pronounced with a hard c.

share|improve this answer
So what? Thanks. – user3812 Feb 28 '11 at 3:07
So what? So there's your answer, @Dante Jiang. And to @James McLeod, +1 from me. – Robusto Feb 28 '11 at 3:13
I thought the same thing, pronounced it "Servik-able" when I tried to say Servicable. – Brett Allen Feb 28 '11 at 3:13
@James McLeod, @Robusto, so, the reason is that if I suffix a word, I should not change the original pronunciation? – user3812 Feb 28 '11 at 3:17
@Dante Jiang: unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. When a suffix derived from Latin is added, it can change both vowel and consonant sounds ("urbane" <=> "urbanity"; "electric" <=> "electricity"). When a native English suffix is added (such as "-able") this is less likely to happen. Of course this is not a great deal of help for a foreign leaner of English. – Colin Fine Feb 28 '11 at 14:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.