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Be possible if not probable

[ 2010-07-05 09:52]     字号 [] [] []  
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Be possible if not probable

Reader’s question:

None the less, war was possible if not probable. Could you explain “be possible if not probable”?

My comments:

It means this:

War was still possible, even though that possibility was a very small one.

Although both “possible” and “probable” are often translated into Chinese as “可能”, their meanings are different.

If something is probable, it’s likely to happen. If it’s a mere possibility, then it may happen but the chances of it happening are slim.

In other words, “probable” is much more probable than “possible”.

To paraphrase the above example again:

The chance for war was slim, but it was there (and so we still had to prepare for it).

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Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.