apt, liable, prone
1. Used with to, prone is by far the most common statistically, liable comes second, and apt, perhaps surprisingly, trails in third place.
2. Apt to and liable to, followed by an infinitive, are virtually interchangeable, except that liable carries a greater notion of responsibility for the result, which is generally implied to be undesirable. Examples:

• Pick up any ‘documentation’…and you are apt to be…bombarded by gibberish —New York Times, 1982

• Given that it's the exam season, I'm apt to be distracted by just about anything —weblog, BrE 2005 [OEC].

In this use, apt to is tending to force out the alternative prone to, although this is still used in relation to habits and continual actions:

• The one unquestionable advantage of the multiflora stock is the fact that it is less prone to throw up suckers than any of the others —N. Young, 1971.

3. Liable to and prone to, unlike apt to, can be followed by a simple object, and in this use liable to also has the meaning ‘subject to (a penalty)’:

• The affected children themselves are liable to behavioural problems such as temper tantrums —Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1980

• Anyone convicted of giving away examination papers to candidates will be liable to two years in jail —Daily Telegraph, 1982.

Both words can usefully be followed by a verbal noun in -ing

• (EB…makes her skin as fragile as a butterfly's wing and prone to blistering —Manchester Evening News, 2003).

4. Likely to, followed by an infinitive, is more neutral than the other words in fitting well into favourable as well as unfavourable contexts. It is also far more common than the other three put together:

• A plan to help young home-buyers is likely to be announced within the next week —Times, 1973

• For the parents of teenagers who are likely to have encounters with the police, the teenage years can be a nightmare —BBC Parenting, 2004.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • liable — li·a·ble / lī ə bəl/ adj [ultimately from Old French lier to bind, from Latin ligare] 1: answerable according to law: bound or obligated according to law or equity one is liable as an accomplice to the crime of another W. R. LaFave and A. W.… …   Law dictionary

  • liable — li‧a‧ble [ˈlaɪəbl] adjective [not before a noun] LAW 1. legally responsible for paying something: liable for • The troubled company will be liable for about $52 million in back taxes and penalties. 2. likely to be legally punished or forced to… …   Financial and business terms

  • Liable — Li a*ble (l[imac] [.a]*b l), a. [From F. lier to bind, L. ligare. Cf. {Ally}, v. t., {Ligature}.] 1. Bound or obliged in law or equity; responsible; answerable; as, the surety is liable for the debt of his principal. [1913 Webster] 2. Exposed to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • liable — 1 amenable, answerable, *responsible, accountable Analogous words: obliged, constrained, compelled (see FORCE vb): bound, tied (see TIE vb) Contrasted words: exempt, immune (see corresponding nouns at EXEMPTION): *free, independent 2 …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • liable to — likely to experience (something undesirable): → liable liable to subject by law to. → liable …   English new terms dictionary

  • liable — ► ADJECTIVE 1) responsible by law; legally answerable. 2) (liable to) subject by law to. 3) (liable to do) likely to do. 4) (liable to) likely to experience (something undesirable). ORIGIN perhaps from French li …   English terms dictionary

  • liable — [lī′ə bəl; ] often, esp. for 3 [, lī′bəl] adj. [prob. via Anglo Fr < OFr lier, to bind < L ligare, to bind (see LIGATURE) + ABLE] 1. legally bound or obligated, as to make good any loss or damage that occurs in a transaction; responsible 2 …   English World dictionary

  • liable — (adj.) mid 15c., bound or obliged by law, probably from Anglo Fr. *liable, from O.Fr. lier to bind, tie up, fasten, tether; bind by obligation, from L. ligare to bind, to tie (see LIGAMENT (Cf. ligament)). With ABLE (Cf. able). General sense of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • liable — [adj1] answerable, responsible accountable, amenable, bound, chargeable, obligated, subject, tied; concept 545 Ant. excusable, freed, irresponsible, unaccountable liable [adj2] open, likely apt, assailable, attackable, beatable, conquerable,… …   New thesaurus

  • liable to — index conditional Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • liable */*/ — UK [ˈlaɪəb(ə)l] / US adjective [never before noun] a) legally responsible for causing damage or injury, so that you have to pay something or be punished If something goes wrong, you ll be liable. liable for: The hospital was held liable for… …   English dictionary