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The Grammar Guru

On his way home, Cave Man started thinking about what would happen when he got there. All he'd been able to find for dinner were some snails and a few carrots.

Cave Woman wasn't fond of snails. In fact, she hated them. When she saw them, she was likely to be disappointed. Worse, she was liable to throw them in his face and cry, "Eat these yourself! I'm taking Cave Boy to my parents'!"

Cave Man frowned. Another unpleasant evening? How many was he supposed to put up with before he moved into the "separation cave"? When he could see his cave, he sat down on a rock and put his chin in his hand.

Life could be complicated. When he and Cave Woman had decided to become an "only you" couple, he knew they were likely to quarrel occasionally, but they hadn't said a nice word to each other in weeks. Now Cave Man was afraid he was liable to say something unforgivable, and it would all be over.

How would he survive then? Oh, sure, he could burn some meat for dinner and toss out any pebbles and leaves that cluttered up his cave, but how would he stay warm on cold nights, and who would listen to his funny story about the first time he saw a banana and tried to eat it skin and all?

Remember: likely -- shows a probability; liable -- shows an unpleasant probability.

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QUIZ

1. When the sun was out, Evan was (liable/likely) to fall asleep in the backyard.

2. "If you drink too much at dinner," the queen warned Hamlet, "you're (likely/liable) to do or say something you'll regret."

3. "Make sure you make use of the rest stops," the trucker's wife told him, "or you're (likely/liable) to fall asleep at the wheel and drive off the road."

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ANSWERS

1. likely (Evan was a dachshund.)

2. liable (There was also the possibility that Hamlet would have trouble deciding whether to sit next to Ophelia, how many pieces of pie to have, etc.)

3. liable (The trucker's job was a marriage-saver.)

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