Difference Between Probability and Possibility

Probability vs Possibility

 

Probability and Possibility are two words between which certain differences can be identified. However, most people often tend to confuse these words due to the resemblance to their meanings. Strictly speaking they show some differences between them. First let us comprehend the meaning of each term. The word ‘probability’ is used mainly in statistical calculations and would mean ‘occurrence in random’. In mathematics, students learn to calculate the probability of something happening. On the other hand the word ‘possibility’ is used in the sense of ‘can’. This is the main difference between probability and possibility. Through this article, attention will be paid to the differences that exist between the two words and also the article will provide an understanding of each word.

What is Probability?

First let us start off with the word ‘Probability’. This refers to the likelihood of something happening. In other words, it can be said that the probability indicates the extent to which an event is likely to occur. It is usually measured by the ratio of the favorable cases to the whole number of cases that are possible. Hence, it can be said that the probability is a subset of possibility.

Let us take the case of an election. Even before the election takes place, through various poles the probability of each candidate’s winning is calculated. This involves a very systematic as well as statistical analysis, in order to arrive at a conclusion. The expression ‘in all probability’ suggests the meaning of ‘most probably’. The opposite of the word probability is improbability. The word ‘probability’ thus involves the application of permutation and combination. Probability takes into account permutations and combinations to arrive at a conclusion regarding the occurrence of an event among all the possibilities.

Difference Between Probability and Possibility

What is Possibility?

Possibility refers to the capability of taking place or being done. This is widely used even in our day today conversations. For an example when we say ‘Is there any possibility for you to come on a Saturday afternoon for the session?’,it suggests that the speaker is inquiring of the capability of the listener to be present for a particular cause.  We would not use the term probability in such an atmosphere. This is mainly because the term possibility is used b people when inquiring of another individual’s capacity for doing something.However in the case of probability it is very much statistical.

One of the main differences between the two words is that while possibility is the universal set, probability is the subset. Possibility is surer to occur than probability. Possibility has its opposite in the word impossibility. Another difference is that while a thing that may exist or happen is called as possibility, the occurrence of an event out of all sorts of possibility is called as probability. Probability is a theory whereas possibility is a happening. This is another difference between the two words. Happenings have to combine together to make a probability a possibility. In other words, it can be said that the probability solely rests on the availability of possibilities. Now let us summarize the difference in the following manner.

Probability vs Possibility

What is the Difference Between Probability and Possibility?

  • A thing that may exist or happen is called as possibility whereas the occurrence of an event out of all sorts of possibility is called as probability
  • Probability indicates the extent to which an event is likely to occur.
  • Possibility is the universal set whereas probability is the subset.
  • Possibility is surer to occur than probability.
  • Possibility has its opposite in the word impossibility whereas probability has its opposite in the word improbability.
  • Probability is a theory whereas possibility is a happening.
  • Happenings have to combine together to make a probability a possibility.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Probability Tree by Joxemai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Woman talking on phone by Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons