Basics Of Grammar In English The Mechanics Of The Able Suffix Ep 396

Hike in the Patagonian mountains, Argentina. New beginning, start of a new English language learning year 2021.

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Basics Of Grammar In English The Able Suffix

We start 2021 with an English lesson that takes us back to the basics of English grammar. We’ve had some fun over the holidays with fairly easy listening English podcasts and we need to pick up the pace and get our brains back up to speed as we head back to work, school and or college.

This podcast came about when someone showed me an amusing meme on Pinterest. Although I’m not that fond of the word doable it is perfectly valid English and it made me think about the mechanics of English. As always, I like to keep our English lessons contemporary using Everyday language, you would expect to here in a conversation in the UK today.

I don't think I could ever really complete anyone. But driving someone insane sounds doable!
⭐ Anonymous meme

Although we will spend our time exploring the uses of able as suffix, today’s lesson is packed with lots of additional learning. Listening to this podcast will help you listen and learn useful English vocabulary. You will practice your English comprehension of English being spoken by a native English speaker with clear British English pronunciation. All of which will be perfect English listening practice while you also learn some English grammar.

If you are interested in learning more about our listen & learn system of learning to speak English fluently, then we have a FREE English language course you can sign up for and get right now. We also have a website packed with useful resources and we explain our listen and learn approach to learning to speak English here.

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Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Basics Of Grammar In English The Mechanics Of The Able Suffix

Hi there and welcome to this first podcast of 2021! I hope that your English language learning is really going to make progress this year – and as ever, Adept English is here to help you. If you haven’t yet done our Most Common Five Hundred Word[s] Course and you would like to consolidate, to firm up your understanding of the most common, most frequently used words in the English language, then you could get the new year off to a really good start and buy this course today.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

There is no other course available which is like this one – so go to our courses page on the website at – and get off to a flying start! You’ll be talking English more fluently in no time! And if your English is good already, you can use our podcasts to ‘brush up your English skills’.

How about we start off the year with one of our ‘English language learning short cuts’? If you’ve done our free course, The Seven Rules of Adept English, then you’ll be familiar with the idea of the ‘helping hand’ of Adept English. We try to give you shortcuts, things which make English easier to understand – simple secrets to instantly improve your English.

So today, let’s get back to some language learning – let’s do something about the mechanics of English. By ‘mechanics’, I mean the way English works. ‘Mechanics’, M-E-C-H-A-N-I-C-S is a word which you might associate with Physics or Engineering. The mechanics means ‘how things work’, what the mechanism is, how something is designed. So you might also talk about the mechanics of the brain, or as here, the mechanics of a language. How it hangs together.

Learn English language - ‘-able’ as a suffix

So what about the suffix ‘-able’, A-B-L-E, which you will find on the end of certain adjectives in English? A suffix, S-U-F-F-I-X is a word ending – and in English, like in other languages, words which share a suffix have something in common, there’s a similarity. So what is the theme, what do words with the ending ‘-able’, A-B-L-E have in common? What do they share?

Well, if we go with the word ‘able’ first of all, A-B-L-E – it’s a word in its own right of course. The word ‘able’ means broadly that you can do something – ‘you are able’. So currently in Tier 4 lockdown in the UK, we are able to go for a walk outside with one other person, so it means ‘we can’ go for a walk. So ‘able’ is used when we’re talking about having permission to do something.


But it’s also used of people’s ‘ability’, A-B-I-L-I-T-Y – so that’s the noun that’s related. Your ‘ability’ is whether or not you’re able, whether or not you can do something. So you might say of a child ‘Oh, he’s very able in Maths.’ This means he has an ability in maths, his ability to handle mathematics is good. We also talk in the UK about ‘disability’ – if someone is unable to walk or unable to hear or unable to speak – we’d talk about this as a disability. And a person who might be unable to walk, or hear, might be described as a ‘disabled person’ or ‘a person with a disability’.

Words like ‘comfortable’, ‘likeable’, ‘doable’

So when we put ‘-able’ on the end of a word – like comfortable, likeable, doable – it generally means ‘able’. So ‘comfortable’ means ‘able to give comfort’ – like comfortable shoes, or a comfortable chair. ‘Likeable’, L-I-K-E-A-B-L-E means ‘able to be liked’ or ‘easy to like’. And ‘doable’, D-O-A-B-L-E, means ‘able to be done’ or ‘easy to do’. Notice the pronunciation there.

If ‘able’, A-B-L-E is used on its own, it’s pronounced with a long A, ‘able’, but if it’s a suffix then it has a short a - ‘-able’, as in ‘comfortable’. It’s as though we were spelling it A-B-B-L-E there – but it’s still spelt A-B-L-E, just pronounced ‘abble’.

Anyway, there are quite a lot of these words – with ‘able’ on the end of them. Once you recognise this pattern, both the meaning of the word and its pronunciation become easier. It saves time and helps your understanding when you’ve got a pattern like this, which you can learn.

More examples of ‘-able’ suffix words

There are lots and lots of words with ‘able’ on the end. But some more examples are here:-

  • Unpronounceable
  • Understandable
  • Distinguishable
  • Uncontrollable
  • Unforgettable
  • Questionable
  • Measurable

Those are probably enough to be going on with. Let’s explain each one of them and then you get the idea. Basically to make each of these adjectives, you’ve got a verb and then the ‘able’ added at the end – to make it into the adjective. And of course, if it’s got ‘un-’, U-N at the start, it means the opposite. So let’s go with each of those.

More examples of ‘-able’ suffix words with vocabulary explanations

‘Unpronounceable’ first of all. Let’s break it down. You can hear the word ‘pronounce’ in the middle of that word. So if something is ‘pronounceable’, that means it’s easy to pronounce, easy to say. And if you add ‘un’ as a prefix at the beginning to make ‘unpronounceable’, then that means the opposite – ‘not easy to pronounce’.

Think of the name of that volcano in Iceland – the one that put ash everywhere and stopped flights for a time years ago. Well, for most people, that’s an unpronounceable name! Next one…


A photograph tiny active volcano in Iceland, the troublemaker volcano is much bigger!

©️ Adept English 2021

‘Understandable’ – an easier one. So again the pattern – the verb ‘to understand’ with ‘-able’ on the end to make it an adjective. If something is ‘understandable’ that means ‘easy to understand’. We use this to talk about emotions or emotional reactions too.

If someone has a certain reaction, we might say ‘Oh well, that’s understandable, given the circumstances’. Notice that we don’t add ‘un’ here – we don’t say ‘ununderstandable’ – that would be too many ‘uns’. We’d just say ‘not understandable’. The next one on that list was…

‘Distinguishable’ – so again, the original verb here is ‘to distinguish’. And ‘to distinguish’ means ‘to be able to tell the difference’, usually where two things are similar. So you might say ‘Oh, I can distinguish the pronunciation of Spanish names from the pronunciation of Portuguese names’. Or I can distinguish a satsuma from a tangerine perhaps.

Or if someone ‘distinguishes themselves’, say as a writer, then they’ve stood out from the crowd’. They’re distinguished – it means they’re better than everyone else. So if something is distinguishable, you can distinguish it – it’s ‘able to be distinguished’. And the opposite here? Well, we add ‘IN’ – ‘indistinguishable’ is the adjective meaning that you can’t tell the difference. The next one on my list…

‘Uncontrollable’ – so again let’s break it down. The verb in the middle is ‘to control’, and that means ‘to direct’, to have power over something – like I might ‘control my dog’ or when I’m driving, hopefully ‘I control my car’. So if something is ‘controllable’, then it’s ‘able to be controlled’, it’s within your power to direct it.

And if something is ‘uncontrollable’, then it isn’t. So if my car hits a patch of ice on the road, it might become ‘uncontrollable’. Or if I take my dog for a walk and he jumps up at every single person we meet, he’s ‘uncontrollable’. Next one...

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

‘Unforgettable’ – so you’ve got it by now, perhaps? The verb is ‘to forget’ – so that if someone or something is ‘forgettable’, they or it are ‘easily forgotten’. And if something is ‘unforgettable’ – it means it made such an impact on you, that you can’t forget it.

So if you have an ‘unforgettable’ holiday, that might be because everything went wrong – it was the worst holiday ever! Or if your holiday was unforgettable’, it could also mean it all went super well, it was just right. So you have to listen to what the person says next to determine which it is!

‘Questionable’. ‘Questionable’ – means ‘able to be questioned’ – so this adjective means usually that there’s something a bit in question, something a bit doubtful here. ‘The hospital employed questionable practices’ – that means that there’s some uncertainty about whether the hospital operates in a good way. A slang word in English for ‘questionable’ would be ‘dodgy’, D-O-D-G-Y. Last one...

‘Measurable’. So measurable – you’ve got it! Means ‘able to be measured’. If you’re setting [up] your objectives with your boss at work, you’re doing an ‘appraisal’, then it’s an advantage to both of you, if your goals, your aims, your targets for the year are ‘able to be measured’, they’re ‘measurable’.

So there are a lot more words like this with the suffix ‘-able’. But at least now, you’ll notice next time you hear one of these words – and you’ll have a head start in being able to work out what the word means, even if you’ve never heard it before!

A few more ‘-able’ suffix words to practise on

Just a few more for you to practise your understanding on:-

  • Unbelievable
  • Fixable
  • Capable
  • Taxable
  • Inevitable
  • Liveable
  • Loveable


That’s your first talking English lesson for 2021. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye



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