# Likely vs. Possible — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on November 5, 2023
"Likely" suggests a higher probability or chance of occurrence, while "possible" simply indicates that something can happen, regardless of how probable. Both words deal with the concept of probability.

## Key Differences

When we say something is "likely," we are suggesting that there's a significant chance or probability of that event or situation occurring. The word "likely" carries a weight of expectation. On the other hand, "possible" indicates that an event or situation can occur, but it doesn't specify the likelihood or the odds. In essence, "possible" is more neutral in its assertion.
Considering nuances, if someone says it's "likely" to rain, they're suggesting that there's a high probability based on current conditions or predictions. Whereas, if someone says rain is "possible," they're acknowledging the potential for rain but not asserting it's highly probable.
The distinction can influence decisions. For instance, if a picnic is being planned and the forecast says rain is "likely," one might reschedule or plan for indoor activities. If rain is just "possible," one might still go ahead with outdoor plans but be prepared with some backup options.
While both "likely" and "possible" operate in the realm of uncertainties and probabilities, they guide expectations differently. "Likely" leans toward an anticipated outcome, while "possible" remains open-ended.

## Comparison Chart

### Connotation

Implies a higher probability
Indicates capability without stating probability

### Usage in a Sentence

Asserts higher chances of an event
Acknowledges an event can occur

More certain
Neutral

### Decision Influence

Might prompt action based on expected outcome
Might prompt preparation for various outcomes

## Compare with Definitions

#### Likely

Having a high probability of occurring.
Given the dark clouds, it's likely to rain.

#### Possible

Possiblexisting or available.
We reviewed all the possible options.

#### Likely

Seems true or probable.
She's likely telling the truth based on the evidence.

#### Possible

Possibleeing within limits of capability.
Climbing the mountain is possible but challenging.

#### Likely

Probably going to be or do something.
She's likely going to be the next manager.

#### Possible

Possibleermissible or allowable.
It's possible to enter the building with permission.

#### Likely

Apt or inclined to a specified action.
He's likely to forget unless reminded.

#### Possible

Capable of happening, existing, or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws, or circumstances
Is it possible to move faster than the speed of light?.

#### Likely

Possessing or displaying the qualities or characteristics that make something probable
They are likely to become angry with him. See Usage Note at liable.

#### Possible

Capable of becoming or of being made to be so; potential
Possible suspects in the case.
A possible site for the new capital.

#### Likely

Within the realm of credibility; plausible
Not a very likely excuse.

#### Possible

Capable of occurring or being done in accordance with something specified. Used with the superlative

#### Likely

Apparently appropriate or suitable
There were several likely candidates for the job.

#### Possible

Capable of happening but of uncertain likelihood
It is possible that you might feel some discomfort after the procedure.

#### Likely

Apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome; promising
A likely topic for investigation.

#### Possible

Permissible
Is it possible to enter the gallery at this hour?.

#### Likely

Attractive; pleasant
Found a likely spot under a shady tree for the picnic.

#### Possible

Able but not certain to happen; neither inevitable nor impossible.
Rain tomorrow is possible, but I wouldn't bet on it.
It's not just possible, it's probable that there will be rain tomorrow.

#### Likely

Probably
They'll likely buy a new car soon.

#### Possible

(comparable) Capable of being done or achieved; feasible.
It's possible for anyone to learn to pay the bagpipes.

#### Likely

Probable; having a greater-than-even chance of occurring
Rain is likely later this afternoon.

#### Possible

Being considered, e.g. for a position.
Jones and Smith are both possible for the opening in sales.

#### Likely

Reasonably to be expected; apparently destined, probable
They are likely to become angry with him.
He is likely to succeed at anything he tries.

#### Possible

Apparently valid, likely, plausible.

#### Likely

Appropriate, suitable; believable; having a good potential
Jones is a likely candidate for management.

A possible one.

#### Likely

Plausible; within the realm of credibility
Not a very likely excuse.

#### Possible

A possible choice, notably someone being considered for a position.
Jones is a possible for the new opening in sales.

#### Likely

Promising; apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome
A likely topic for investigation.

#### Possible

(rare) A particular event that may happen.

#### Likely

Attractive; pleasant
I found a likely spot under a shady tree for the picnic.

#### Possible

Capable of existing or occurring, or of being conceived or thought of; able to happen; capable of being done; not contrary to the nature of things; - sometimes used to express extreme improbability; barely able to be, or to come to pass; as, possibly he is honest, as it is possible that Judas meant no wrong.
With God all things are possible.

#### Likely

(obsolete) Similar; like; alike.

#### Possible

Something that can be done;
Politics is the art of the possible

#### Likely

Something or somebody considered likely.

#### Possible

An applicant who might be suitable

#### Likely

(obsolete) Similarly.

#### Possible

Capable of happening or existing;
A breakthrough may be possible next year
Anything is possible
Warned of possible consequences

#### Likely

Probably.
Likely he’ll win the election in this economy.

#### Possible

Existing in possibility;
A potential problem
Possible uses of nuclear power

#### Likely

Worthy of belief; probable; credible; as, a likely story.
It seems likely that he was in hope of being busy and conspicuous.

#### Possible

Possible to conceive or imagine;

#### Likely

Having probability; having or giving reason to expect; - followed by the infinitive; as, it is likely to rain.

#### Possible

Possibleapable of happening or being realized.
It's possible that they might visit next week.

#### Likely

Similar; like; alike.

#### Possible

Possiblehat can be or can become.
He's a possible candidate for the position.

#### Likely

Such as suits; good-looking; pleasing; agreeable; handsome.

#### Likely

Having such qualities as make success probable; well adapted to the place; promising; as, a likely young man; a likely servant.

#### Likely

Improbable; unlikely; - used ironically; as, a likely story.

#### Likely

In all probability; probably.
While man was innocent he was likely ignorant of nothing that imported him to know.

#### Likely

Has a good chance of being the case or of coming about;
These services are likely to be available to us all before long
She is likely to forget
A likely place for a restaurant
The broken limb is likely to fall
Rain is likely
A likely topic for investigation
Likely candidates for the job

#### Likely

Likely but not certain to be or become true or real;
A likely result
He foresaw a probable loss

#### Likely

Expected to become or be; in prospect;
Potential clients
Expected income

#### Likely

Within the realm of credibility;
Not a very likely excuse
A plausible story

#### Likely

With considerable certainty; without much doubt;
He is probably out of the country
In all likelihood we are headed for war

#### Likely

To be expected under the circumstances.
Given his experience, he's likely the best candidate.

## Common Curiosities

#### Which word indicates a higher probability: likely or possible?

"Likely" indicates a higher probability than "possible."

#### Is "possible" more neutral than "likely"?

Yes, "possible" is more neutral, simply suggesting that something can happen.

#### Is "likely" always used to predict positive outcomes?

No, "likely" just predicts an outcome; it can be positive or negative.

#### Can both "likely" and "possible" be used interchangeably?

While related, they aren't always interchangeable due to differing degrees of probability.

#### Can "likely" be used as both an adjective and an adverb?

Yes, "likely" can function as both an adjective ("a likely scenario") and an adverb ("It will likely rain").

#### Do both "likely" and "possible" deal with future events?

Generally, yes, as both deal with uncertainties and probabilities of future outcomes.

#### Can "possible" be used to discuss hypothetical scenarios?

Yes, "possible" is often used in discussing what could be or might be.

#### If something is "likely," is it also "possible"?

Yes, if something is "likely," it is inherently "possible."

#### Can something be both "likely" and "possible" in a sentence?

Yes, e.g., "It's possible we might go to the park, but it's more likely we'll stay home."

#### Does "possible" give any indication of probability?

No, "possible" just indicates capability without specifying likelihood.

#### Do both words originate from Latin?

Both have Latin roots, with "likely" from "lic" (similar) and "possible" from "possibilis" (that can be done).

#### If something is "unlikely," is it still "possible"?

Yes, even if something is "unlikely," it's still "possible" unless deemed impossible.

#### Is "possible" often paired with qualifiers?

Yes, you can often hear terms like "very possible" or "barely possible."

#### Is "likely" more subjective than "possible"?

Often, yes. "Likely" tends to reflect a person's assessment, while "possible" is more objective.

#### When predicting weather, which term indicates more certainty?

"Likely" suggests more certainty about a weather event than "possible."