Posted by: Idioma Extra | October 5, 2011

Thursday Tidbits – Probable, probably, likely

Probable, probably, likely… 

There are often mistakes made by English language learners when using probable and probably related to their position in a sentence. Here is a quick explanation of how each is used as well as how to use likely, which is similar to probable and probably.


Probable is always used with a verb “be” or other linking verbs like “seem” or “look.” It’s position is after the verb “be” or a linking verb. Here are some examples:

It is probable that he will arrive late. He always does.

The chances of it raining seem probable.


Probably is used to modify verbs in a sentence. It’s position is before the verb or in between the helping verb and principle verb. It is also generally used to express something that may happen in the future and is used with “will” (but not always). Here are some examples:

He probably works more than anyone in the company.

They will probably spend a lot of money in Las Vegas.

My friend can probably help you with your problem.


Likely is a common replacement of both probably and probable in the English language. It can be used as both an adjective as well as an adverb. The opposite is unlikely. Here are some examples:

It is likely that he will arrive late. (adjective)

It will likely rain this afternoon. (adverb)

They will likely spend a lot of money in Las Vegas. (adverb)

It is unlikely that Costa Rica will win the World Cup. (adjective)

Check yourself

Underline the correct word to properly complete the sentences. In some cases, both may be correct.

1. It is (probable / probably) that she will forget the appointment.

2. The team will (probably / likely) have a losing season.

3. He will (probable / probably) come to the party later.

4. It seems (likely, probably) that the test will be difficult.

5. The harder he tries, it is more and more (probably / probable) that he will succeed.

6. He is (likely / probably) looking for a new job.

7. I don’t think it is (probably / likely) that there will be a lot of people at the concert.

8. They can (probable / probably) fix the car before 3pm.

9. He is (likely / probable) tired from working too hard.

10. The fact that his cell phone doesn’t work is (probably / probable) due to the fact that the battery is dead.

 Answers to last week’s Check Yourself

To view the rest of our blog please visit:




  1. Hi, i have reading out and i will definitely bookmarrk your site, just wanted to say i liked this article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: