Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: liable

liable. “Liable” (= subject to or exposed to) should not be used merely for “likely.” “Liable” best refers to something the occurrence of which risks being permanent or recurrent — e.g.: o “What you don’t know is liable to hurt you — and your building.” Maureen Patterson, “See You in Court!” Buildings, Feb. 1997, at 48. o “Taking away any function for more than a few days is liable to result in loss of that capability.” Richard J. Ham, “After the Diagnosis,” Post Graduate Medicine, June 1997, at 57. “Liable” has three syllables (/LI-uh-buhl/), not two, and is thus pronounced differently from “libel.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “There is force, and directness, and pungency in the words because there is real feeling beneath the words. Nobody abuses his enemy in a roundabout way; he speaks his mind plainly and bitingly because he feels what he is saying. The fundamental defect of the conventional poetry of the eighteenth century was that the sentiments which it expressed were not deeply felt, and the artificiality of the sentiment was reflected in an artificiality of language.” Henry Bett, Some Secrets of Style 258-59 (1932).
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