Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Likely Pet Peeve

Here is another misuse of words that is on the top third of my Teeth Gritter List.

Likely. Liable. They are not interchangeable. Really. And liable is not a fancy way to say likely, and no, it doesn't make you sound more Southern. You won't be increasing your grammatical status or your cool by saying liable when you mean likely.

"He's not here today, but he's liable to be in tomorrow." This is wrong. Say instead, "He's not here today, but he's likely to be in tomorrow."
Liable is used chiefly with regard to answering the consequence of an act that is likely to be the cause of trouble; as in, "The arrest of one who exceeds the speed-limit is likely, and may render him liable to a fine."

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