- feasibleThe key to the use of this word, and the problems associated with it, lies in its relation to the different meanings of possible. Feasible has three main uses, two unexceptionable and one controversial, all associated with different aspects of possibility:1. With reference to ideas, projects, etc., ‘capable of being done, practicable’:
• Changes became feasible over a period of time —Harold Wilson, 1976
• There was no question that a tunnel was technically feasible, but I wanted to know what the economics would be —N. Fowler, 1991
• Clearly, it is not feasible to have cameras covering the whole of the track. —Hansard, 1992.2. With reference to people and things generally, ‘capable of being used or dealt with successfully’:
• The sixties should see them [sc. labour-saving devices] put into commercial production in sufficient quantity to make them financially feasible —Sunday Times, 1960
• The new semi-automated test could at last make massive screening programmes for cervical cancer economically feasible —New Scientist, 1991.These first two meanings are often hard to distinguish, although essentially the first refers to actions and processes whereas the second refers to what is being dealt with or considered; they are given separately in the OED but are combined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary (‘possible to do easily or conveniently’). Perhaps only compilers of dictionaries attempt to see a difference.3. With reference to a theory, proposition, etc., ‘able or likely to be the case’:
• Even if we dropped the price range we looked at, it was quite feasible it would eventually go beyond our budget —Belfast Telegraph, 2007.This third, and controversial, meaning comes closest to being a synonym of possible (in its meaning ‘able to be the case’ rather than ‘able to be done’) or probable, and Fowler urged strongly that when these words can be substituted without affecting the meaning they should be. The examples he gave, unattributed but probably from newspapers, were: Witness said it was quite feasible [better possible] that if he had had night binoculars he would have seen the iceberg earlier and We ourselves believe that this is the most feasible [better probable] explanation of the tradition.Each case must be treated on its merits, but when the context requires the sense of likelihood or probability (as in the 2007 example above) rather than practicality it is prudent to test first whether possible or probable might not be the more satisfactory word (this will occur most often in constructions of the type It is feasible that…), and to use feasible only if both the other words seem unnatural or unidiomatic.
Modern English usage. 2014.