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# General Writing and Grammar Help/Chance, possibility, & probability

Question
Dear Ted:

I don't know when it is correct and appropriate to use "chance," possibility," and "probability." I am asking this question because, in Italian, we have only one word for them.

Would you please explain the differences among the above three words with some examples?

Thank you very much for the help.

Paolo

P.S. Ted, is the question "Would you please explain the differences among the above three words with some examples?" correctly written?

Dear Paolo:

I don't know when it is correct and appropriate to use "chance," possibility,"
and "probability." I am asking this question because, in Italian, we have only
one word for them.

Would you please explain the differences among the above three words with some
examples?

**** Although the three words share the same basic meaning, each one is different, in most respects from the others.

CHANCE -- This word suggests no "planning."  If something just happens, we say it happens by chance.

POSSIBILITY -- Based on certain pieces of evidence ["steps" or "part of a plan"], we can fairly well predict that something is going to happen.  It is more likely than not that some thing [like an event of some kind] MAY occur.  [Let's say that the odds are 75% that the event will take place.]

PROBABILITY -- All the steps or evidence lead to a very strong suggestion that something is going to happen.  We have so much evidence that the likelihood of the event occurring is at last 90%.

Although we cannot be certain about any of the three, the strongest is "probability."  The weakest is "chance," which we really cannot rate with a %, because there are no "steps" or "logical progression" leading to whether something will or will not occur.

EXAMPLES:

I took a CHANCE and bought a lottery ticket.  I knew that my CHANCES of winning were not very good.

The meteorologists that study the weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean have determined a POSSIBILITY that there will be more hurricanes this year than any other time in recorded history.

If a young man impregnates his sister, scientists believe that there is a very strong PROBABILITY that their child will suffer from some or many birth defects.  There is another PROBABILITY:  One of the defects will most likely affect the child's brain, stunting the growth of the child's abilities to function in society.

Finally, John got a perfect score in the examination.  It happened by CHANCE, since he did not studying for the test.  Mary did not study either, but, since she attended all the classes and took copious notes, there was a POSSIBILITY that she would do well.  Paolo covered all the bases by attending class, taking comprehensive notes, and studying for two days before the examination.  The PROBABILITY of Paolo's doing well is very, very high.

[NOTE;  "Cover all the bases" is an idiom.  It comes from the game of baseball, and it means that extensive planning has been done, leaving no weakness in the plan.]

Thank you very much for the help.

Paolo

P.S. Ted, is the question "Would you please explain the differences among the
above three words with some examples?" correctly written?

*** As usual, you are CORRECT!

Ted
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General Writing and Grammar Help

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#### Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy