I understand the '-ble' suffix. It's added to a verb to make it adjective. That's fine and I'm convinced with msot of the examples we find of such modification.

I can 'break' a mirror. So, the mirror is breakable. Break is a verb and thus, as Cambridge defines, suffixing '-able' would make it 'breakable'.


I sale sell the house

But then...

The house is saleable!

I don't 'sale' something, I 'sell' it. Especially, in the matter of house, I certainly 'sell' it.

Am I missing something? Is it the only irregular noun that takes -able to convert into adjective? Wait... but we are talking about the verb. I'm confused!

  • I can't contribute much to clear your doubt, but I can share some observation that I have made. The term Saleable is derived from sale + -able. Definitely Sale is not a verb, it's a noun. So my guess is that the definition that not complete. I have searched for the term -able, but everywhere it says it is added after a verb to make an adjective, in some places it defines only the meaning of the term -able, not mentioning to which parts of speech that suffix should be added. So it is my guess that the definition that Cambridge provides is not complete. Jan 5, 2015 at 7:14
  • @Man_From_India thanks buddy. But that's what makes this question close to my heart! :)
    – Maulik V
    Jan 5, 2015 at 7:16
  • 3
    Actually, sellable is also possible, at least according to merriam-webster.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 5, 2015 at 7:45
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    @MaulikV: there is also extant next to existing. How a word comes into a vocabulary is not really relevant; once it is there, and users of a language find it useful, they will use it. Logic and consistency are not always important factors in that process :)
    – oerkelens
    Jan 5, 2015 at 9:01
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    It'll probably take a couple of generations, but my guess is more "regular" derivatives such as unsellable will eventually become the norm. I'd already use that one almost every time, because I really don't like the look of unsalable - and adding the e must be a real headache for dyslexics (who probably see unsealable). Jun 29, 2015 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Fowler's Modern English Usage -

The suffix -able is a living one, and may be appended to any transitive verb to make an adjective (gradable adjective) with the senses 'able', or 'liable', or 'allowed', or 'worthy', or 'requiring', or 'bound' to be—ed or 'capable of being—ed', e.g. conceive -> conceivable that can be (mentally) conceived. The suffix, in other words, normally has a modal meaning.

Other -able words are formed from nouns (e.g. actionable).....

So here it address your confusion. Clearly the online entry of Cambridge dictionary didn't list the details against the entry -able. It misses a few, for example -able can also be added as suffix to a noun.

Example -

Saleable -> Sale (noun) + -able

  • Okay, I buy a bit of it! :) +1
    – Maulik V
    Jan 5, 2015 at 8:47
  • @MaulikV :O only a bit :D anyways there are a lot of text under that suffix. But I just quoted only that part which is relevant here :) Jan 5, 2015 at 9:00

In order for an item to be sold, two requirements must be met:

  1. The seller must own the item, and both must be free of any encumbrances or restrictions that would forbid the sale.

  2. The condition and nature of the item must be such that someone would want to buy it if tendered for sale.

  3. The owner must actually tender the item for sale.

For an item to be "saleable" implies primarily that it meets the second requirement; for it to be "not saleable" implies that it fails the second requirement. By contrast, the term "sellable" implies that an item meets all the requirements for sale, and "not sellable" implies that it fails at least one of the first two requirements, and generally not just the second one (since in that case it would more likely have been "not saleable").

I suspect the reason "salable" is used more often than "sellable" is that the it's often more useful to say whether people would want to buy an item than to say whether it meets all the requirements for it to be sold.

  • Just an aside, saleable is the usual UK spelling. In the US, it is often salable.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 29, 2015 at 17:34

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