Ask the Editor
Serenity Carr, Assistant Editor
Possible vs Probable
Friday July 16th 2021
What is difference between 'possible' and 'probable'? — Yao Yuan-chao, Taiwan

Possible means "able to be done; able to happen or exist." Probable means "likely to happen or be true but not certain."


If something is possible, it can happen. But possible does not mean that something will happen for certain or even that it is very likely to happen. If there is a 10% chance of rain today, it is possible that it will rain. It could rain, but there is a 90% chance that it will not rain.


If something is probable, there is a good chance that it will happen, but it is not certain. If there is a 90% chance of rain today, it is probable [=it is likely] that it will rain.


Here are more examples:

  • It is possible for the car to [=the car can] reach speeds of more than 120 miles per hour.
  • He hoped to retake the test but the teacher said it is not possible [=he cannot retake the test].
  • It's possible to see Venus with the naked eye [=without a telescope] if the sky isn’t cloudy.
  • The police think it is probable that the burglar lives in the area. [=It is most likely that the burglar lives in the area.]
  • The weather is clear today so it is probable that you will be able to see the eclipse. [=You will likely see the eclipse.]
  • It is possible that we will make it to school on time but it is not probable. [=We might make it on time if we hurry but it is not likely—it is probable that we will be late.]


I hope this helps.


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