If you drive into someone's fence, you’ll probably be held liable — legally responsible — for fixing it. Liable can also mean “likely,” usually with something unpleasant: "If you don't brush your teeth, they're liable to fall out."

When liable refers to legal responsibility, it's used with "for": "You're liable for the court costs" (meaning you have to pay them). When liable means "likely," it's with "to": "If you build your house on that cliff, it's liable to fall into the river," or "That part of town is liable to mudslides." Don't confuse liable with libel, which is a legal term for slander, or saying something false and damaging about someone.

Definitions of liable
  1. adjective
    subject to legal action
    liable to criminal charges”
    (of persons) not exempt from an obligation or liability
  2. adjective
    held legally responsible
    “men between the ages of 18 and 35 were liable for military service”
    worthy of or requiring responsibility or trust; or held accountable
  3. adjective
    (often followed by 'to') likely to be affected with
    liable to diabetes”
    synonyms: nonimmune, nonresistant, unresistant
    (often followed by `of' or `to') yielding readily to or capable of
  4. adjective
    likely to be or experience something, often something unpleasant
    “she is liable to forget”
    synonyms: apt
    having a good chance of being the case or of coming about
Word Family