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“Plausible” vs. “possible”

My English-Russian dictionary translates "impossible" and "implausible" absolutely the same. But there must be a difference. Could you explain, please?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Robusto, Manoochehr, RegDwigнt Dec 22 '12 at 13:24

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Somewhat sheepishly, I'm voting to reopen. Per comments under @Carlo's answer, there's certainly scope for disagreement about what exactly totally implausible means. There's no doubt in my mind that the negating im- prefix is doing something subtly different when applied to “plausible” vs. “possible”. Even if not everyone (or perhaps no-one) agrees with me on that point, the fact that I think it is my justification for the reopen vote. –  FumbleFingers Dec 22 '12 at 19:02

2 Answers 2

No, these words are very different in meanings.

"Implausible" means "not seeming reasonable or probable", while "impossible" means "not able to occur, exist or be done," as you read in Oxford Dictionary of English.

Probably, in some contexts, "totally implausible" could mean "impossible."

You can use these words together. For example:

  • It is the macroevolutionary ideas, new species evolving from a variety of species, that remains a mystery, and for most considered implausible and impossible. (See.)

  • But considering that the Broncos won seven of their games this season by a total of 25 points and lost four by 105, victory over the Steelers will be mission implausible, but not impossible. (See.)

I hope the above explanation clarify your doubts.

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@spiceyokooko I think you're right. In Carlo_R's defense, implausible is often used thus, as if implausible and improbable were synonyms; and what is "totally improbable" is, by definition, impossible. But I think this is a misuse: "not seeming probable" is not the same thing as "not probable". Plausible speaks to perception, probable to fact. –  StoneyB Dec 22 '12 at 14:55
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@StoneyB You can never say too much. I admire your writing on here it's beautifully crafted. –  spiceyokooko Dec 22 '12 at 15:13
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@spiceyokooko (wiping away a tear) What I love about this place is that it offers an opportunity to write well. –  StoneyB Dec 22 '12 at 17:55
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@spiceyokooko: I think Carlo is quite right that totally implausible can (and indeed usually does) mean exactly the same as impossible (i.e. - not feasible under any circumstances). Different speakers will obviously make their own distinctions on such fine points (which cannot possibly be established definitively using dictionaries or other "authoritative" sources), but I personally would say that whereas there's a vanishingly small possibility of something totally improbable happening, if it's totally implausible there's absolutely no chance. –  FumbleFingers Dec 22 '12 at 18:14
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@FumbleFingers I'm afraid I don't agree and for once I'm going to put my virtual foot down and say that if you wish to imply something is not possible, you would not be using the word implausible - with or without supporting adverbs - it's poor use of the English language. Given that this site is about the correct use of it, I find it a poor example. –  spiceyokooko Dec 22 '12 at 18:47

Words rarely translate accurately, which is why it is a good idea to use single language dictionaries if you can. From OED.

implausible, adj.

Pronunciation: /ɪmˈplɔːzɪb(ə)l/

†1. Not worthy of applause; personally unacceptable. Obs.

2. Not having the appearance of truth, probability, or acceptability; not plausible.

I think meaning (1), though obsolete, neatly summarises the concept of implausible. Contrast with impossible

impossible, adj. and n.

Pronunciation: /ɪmˈpɒsɪb(ə)l/

a. Not possible; that cannot be done or effected; that cannot exist or come into being; that cannot be, in existing or specified circumstances. Const. to or for.

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+1 The good idea ... dictionaries bit needs to be in 40-point bold. –  StoneyB Dec 22 '12 at 14:59

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