Public Works and Government Services Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional Links


Important notice

Good news! We have updated our writing tools. Writing Tips and The Canadian Style have been combined to create a new tool called Writing Tips Plus.

Don’t forget to update your bookmarks. Within a few weeks, Writing Tips will no longer be available.

To begin your search, go to the alphabetical index below and click on the first letter of the word you are searching for.

liable, likely, apt

Although these words are largely interchangeable when used to express probability, each of them has a specific primary meaning.

Apt means "naturally inclined" or "suitable."

  • Ginger, the cat, is apt (inclined) to run away if the door is left open.
  • For a freelance editor, a thesaurus is an apt (suitable) gift.

Liable means "answerable" or "likely" (especially with some risk of an unpleasant outcome). It should not be used in a positive context.

  • Criminals are liable for their actions.
  • People who drink and drive are liable to cause an accident.

Likely means "expected" or "probable." For most situations, likely is the best choice.

  • We are likely (or liable) to be late for the concert if this heavy rain continues.
  • Shanta is likely (not liable) to get the highest marks in her class again this year.