Dajka Dávid GyörgyDr. Csontos Pál26/10/2017
Possible and Potential
Possible and potential are two words that have close resemblance in meaning. However perchance a closer research on these words would provide with more information about differences between the meaning, and the context, therefore leading us to a better understanding of the two words, where these words are mostly used.
Origin of the word possible has roots back in late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin possibillis, from posse ‘be able’. Possible is an adjective. Possible indicates that something might happen, if something is possible, it can be done or achieved. The American Heritage Dictionary states: “Capable of happening, existing or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws or circumstances: Is it possible to move faster than the speed of light?”, “Capable of occurring or being done in accordance with something specified. Used with the superlative: You’ll get the best possible care at this hospital.” “Capable of becoming or of being made to be so; potential: possible suspects in this case; a possible site for the new capital.” “Capable of happening but of uncertain likelihood: It is possible that you might feel some discomfort after this procedure.” “Permissible: Is it possible to enter the gallery at this hour?” Possible is often used in expressions like as soon as possible; there is an easier form of using this expression with the help of acronyms such as ASAP. The acronym ASAP is a very common word used in armies.
As for potential the word is best described as: “chance or possibility that something will happen or exist in the future” (For example in a sentence: Thunderstorms may potentially endanger lives.)
The word potential originated in late Middle English: from late Latin potentialis, from potentia ‘power’, from potent- ‘being able’. The noun dates from the early 19th century. The American Heritage Dictionary cites: “Capable of being but not yet in existence; latent or undeveloped: a potential problem; a substance with many potential uses.” Or for another definition: “The possibility that something might happen or result from given conditions: a tense situation with the potential to turn into a riot; farming practices that increase the potential for the erosion of topsoil.” Potential can be used in many sentences for example here is one: Since you have small children you should avoid the potential risk of drug overdose by locking away all your medicine somewhere safe, where your children are will not be able to reach it. “The play really worked with the natural elements of the Magdalen College school grounds to realize the potential of open-air theater.” Smoking will potentially kill you, if you do not stop. Using your mobile phone while driving a vehicle will potentially endanger you in the long run.
These couple of examples helps to show a clear difference between the meaning of the words possible and potential. As a summary remember that when you use possible it means can be. As for potential it means capable of being becoming.