It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms. However, my impression is that "probable" implies a higher degree of probability than "likely". More particularly, I would not use "probable" to describe a probability of less than 50%, whereas I might still describe events with a probability of, say, 30% as likely.

Any thoughts?
Jonathan Bray
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It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms. ... a probability of less than 50%, whereas I might still describe events with a probability of, say, 30% as likely.

Parsing helps (thus usage requires context).
We have the adjective likely
and the adverb likely
and the adjective probable
and the adverb probably.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms.

Synonyms? Not bloody probable!

Ross Howard
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Jonathan Bray wrote on 09 Aug 2004:
It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms. ... of less than 50%, whereas I might still describe events with a probability of, say, 30% as likely. Any thoughts?

My Tokyo motorcycle-club president felt the same way about a 30% probability of rain. Whenever the probability of rain was 30% or higher, he cancelled any scheduled trip because he felt that it was more likely than not to rain.
I vote for the OED's feeling about their interchangeability. To me, one is more formal and technical than the other, but they imply the same chance that something will happen.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms.

Synonyms? Not bloody probable!

A probable story!

Bob Lieblich
Probable as not to get it wrong
Synonyms? Not bloody probable!

A probable story!

Bob? Is that you? The guy who went out with The Girl Most Probable To?

Ross Howard
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On 8 Aug 2004 18:36:09 GMT, CyberCypher
Jonathan Bray wrote on 09 Aug 2004:

It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, ... with a probability of, say, 30% as likely. Any thoughts?

My Tokyo motorcycle-club president felt the same way about a 30% probability of rain. Whenever the probability of rain was ... me, one is more formal and technical than the other, but they imply the same chance that something will happen.

Also, as Bob L. and I are currently demonstrating by messing around, they're not interchangeable in quite a large number of specific syntactic and idiomatic circumstances.

Ross Howard
It appears from OED that "likely" and probable" are interchangeable, and I know that many people regard them as synonyms. ... of less than 50%, whereas I might still describe events with a probability of, say, 30% as likely. Any thoughts?

I don't attach any relative probability to them myself.
David Dyer-Bennet, , RKBA: Pics: Dragaera/Steven Brust:
Ross Howard wrote on 09 Aug 2004:
Jonathan Bray wrote on 09 Aug 2004: My Tokyo motorcycle-club ... but they imply the same chance that something will happen.

Also, as Bob L. and I are currently demonstrating by messing around, they're not interchangeable in quite a large number of specific syntactic and idiomatic circumstances.

The theory that all the parts of idioms are fixed seems to have been blown out of the oil by the revelations provided by Evan K about the frequent use of "But at the same token" and his rather sanguine conclusion that "... it seems to be part of some people's dialect."

I agree with you guys, though, that in some cases "likely" is the better choice, such as when it is used as an adverb and cannot be replaced by the adverb "probably". But there is the expression "That's a likely story!" and there is not the expression "That's a probable story!"

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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