Passable

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dreamlike

Senior Member
Polish
Hi,

is the adjective "passable" commonly used with things other than "road", as an evaluative term of someone's skills/beauty or grasp of foreign language perhaps? Or would it be uncommon to hear it used this way? I came up with some sentences. What do you make of them?

(1.) As for now, I speak passable English, but I strive to improve my command of that beautiful language.
(2.) - She looked exquisitely beautiful in that white dress!
- She looked passably, at the very best...
(3.) - Do you fancy yourself with a tennis racquet?
- Well, I think my tennis skills are passable..
 
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  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    They seem fine to me (with a slight correction: "She looked passable"). Did you look at our dictionary definition of passable? The first definition is "good enough to be acceptable." In fact, this might be the more common use of "passable", with the meaning related to roads as a specialized term.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's acceptable for almost anything when you mean "just good enough to get by, but no better." It fits all three of your examples, with the minor correction that the previous posters mentioned.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I did look it up, but in Cambridge's dictionary - and the meaning ‎"satisfactory but not excellent" was the second meaning, first being "possible to travel on". If dictionary reads something as the second meaning, it sometimes imply that although recognized by the dictionary, is rarely used by people this way. I just wanted to make sure.

    Thanks for all your answers! :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...If dictionary reads something as the second meaning, it sometimes imply that although recognized by the dictionary, is rarely used by people this way...
    That's not always, or even usually, true. If two meanings are used with approximately equal frequency, one of them has to be first, because that is the nature of lists. Dictionaries try to put meanings in order of frequency, but being second on their list is like being the second hit in a Google search. It's often still quite high. A meaning that is second is still often widely used.

    In particular, the usage of "passable" to mean that a road is suitable for travel is quite common: for example, I might ask if a mountain road is passable after a snowstorm. I would expect any listener to understand that question. Please do not infer that this is a rare usage. It is not.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Don't get my wrong, I didn't say it's always the case, but in my experience, it sometimes proves true. If I have inferred anything (and I have not ), it would be that it is "satisfactory but not excellent" that is a rare usage, not "possible to travel on". Let me quote my post:
    dreamlike said:
    first being "possible to travel on"
    I didn't mean to imply anything, though. I said
    dreamlike said:
    If dictionary reads something as the second meaning, it sometimes imply that although recognized by the dictionary, is rarely used by people this way.


    I didn't say that this holds true in this particular case :)


     
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