Grammar Collectible or Collectable: A Matter of Noun vs. Adjective |
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Collectible or Collectable: A Matter of Noun vs. Adjective

The chances are good that you have seen (and may even own) some collectibles. At the same time, you probably have other things that were collectable. The real question, though, is whether you know the difference between the two words. If not, today’s post should be a big help.

Collectible vs. Collectable

Let’s start by pointing out that both collectible and collectable are actual words, and either can be correct in their proper context: i.e., neither is wrong or misspelled (something you often see misrepresented on the web). With that being said, let’s distinguish collectible and collectable.

A collectible is a noun meaning specific item that is acquired for a hobby, a display, or a potential investment that may increase in value. Examples of collectibles include artwork, antiques, vintage toys, stamps, baseball cards, and celebrity memorabilia.

You may even see the term collectible used as an adjective to describe a product or a giveaway, such as collectible coins or limited-edition collectible dolls. In each of these instances, a certain amount of value and rarity is being implied.

A collectable is an adjective that refers to things that can be collected. For example, you could collect money from a customer (collectable payment or money). You could also collect permission slips from students (collectable permission slip) or eggs from a group of hens (collectable eggs).

Where confusion can arise is where the meanings of these two words overlap. For example, collectibles could potentially be collectable (Your collectable baseball cards may someday become high-priced collectibles).  In addition, in British English, both words (noun and adjective) are spelled with an “a” (collectable), making it even tougher to distinguish one from the other.

Examples of Collectible and Collectable in Sentences

Now you know the difference between the words, let’s look at some sentences that place each word in its proper context:

Ronnie spent half of his paycheck at the comic book shop, but he has been dreaming about buying those collectibles to complete the set.

You wouldn’t want to use stamps or other collectibles as the cornerstone of your retirement plan, but the right items should increase in value.

Your test results will be collectable in the back of the room at the end of class.

Knowing When to Use Collectible and Collectable

Given that the two words are so close in spelling and meaning, how can you know which one to use? You can follow a couple easy rules of thumb.

Americans will most often use collectible. In our culture, we are typically referring to rare items (nouns) when thinking of this word. That means we can generally stick to the spelling that includes an “i.”

If however we are writing about something that will be retrieved, we will want to use the adjective collectable along with the item being retrieved.

If you are ever unsure about which word to use, consult a style guide, and keep in mind that collectable may be the preferred form for a non-U.S. audience.

Pop Quiz

1. Now that you know the difference between collectible and collectable, choose the correct form of the word in the following sentences.

2. That coin will someday become a [collectible / collectable].

3. After school I want to see your set of [collectible / collectable] stamps.

4. The baseball card expo will feature [collectibles / collectables] from the 1940s.

5. The balance of the loan will become [collectible / collectable] at the end of the year.

How do you find out if the lab results are [collectible / collectable] yet?


Pop Quiz Answers

1. That coin will someday become a collectible.

2. After school I want to see your set of collectable stamps.

3. The baseball card expo will feature collectibles from the 1940s.

4. The balance of the loan will become collectable at the end of the year.

5. How do you find out if the lab results are collectable yet?


Keep Raising the Bar for Your Grammar

Fine points of grammar and spelling such as the one discussed in this post further refine your precision and eloquence in American English. Browse our many other posts and articles for more grammar tips and advice. You can also leave us a comment or questions below!

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