Can we say probable where we have to say possible?

What is the exact meaning of that? I have searched this, but I didn't get the perfect example of that.

  • 3
    Have you looked the words up in a dictionary? What did you find? [Please share your research] What is the problem? (And, if you have to say Possible then surely you can't say anything else)
    – Andrew Leach
    May 1, 2013 at 12:19
  • It's possible (it could happen) that the world will end tomorrow, but it's not probable (chances are very, very slim that it will). So, "No" is the answer to your question.
    – user21497
    May 1, 2013 at 12:25
  • 1
    Always check grammar and capitalization practices when posting questions: This is English Language Q&A! Take your time.
    – Kris
    May 1, 2013 at 13:14
  • 1
    Possible duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/questions/6088
    – Kit Z. Fox
    May 1, 2013 at 18:24

2 Answers 2


The answer to your question is not quite as easy as it should be.

The reason for this is that both "possible" and "probable" are also technical terms. So while some may use the words ordinarily, others may use them technically.

The ordinary meaning of the word "possible" is that which is able to occur.

The ordinary meaning of the word "probable" is that which is likely to occur.

The technical meaning of the word "possible" is something like: it is not necessary for it not to occur.

The technical meaning of the word "probable" is the description of the statistical outcome of an event or a series of events.

In ordinary English we can (and often do) interchange the terms possible and probably. E.g. "I can probably to go the party tonight. Is it possible you are going too?" However, the connotation of each is still likely to occur and able to occur respectively.

To further illustrate the technical use, I'll end with a joke:

Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks if they would all like a drink. The first logician says "I'm not sure." The second logician says "I'm not sure." The third logician says "Yes."

  • There are a couple of unspoken presuppositions in the joke, and the final logician is making use of non-logical pragmatic information (specifically, Grice's Maxims). But it's still a good joke. May 1, 2013 at 19:10

Possible and probable are both Modal terms.
This means they're weird, confusing, and irregular as hell.

Two major groups of modals are the Necessary ( 'Square') and Possible ( 'Diamond') modals. Necessary and Possible are defined logically this way (where p is any proposition):

If p is Possibly True, then p is Not Necessarily Not True   ( p ≡ ( ¬ ¬ p ))
If p is Necessarily True, then p is Not Possibly Not True   ( p ≡ ( ¬ ¬ p ))

And they're laid out on a line from ¬ (Impossible) at one end, with (Certain) at the other, with Possible at the zero point, and varying degrees of (im)probability spread out among them.

impossible ~ improbable ~ unlikely ~ possible ~ likely ~ probable ~ certain

These are all judgements, predictions of events. As such, they're not easily verifiable, especially in cases of unique events. But they are ways of expressing those judgements.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.