Difference between Capability and Ability | Ability vs Capability

The words ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are used quite frequently, and since they sound quite the same, students often get confused while using them. You might notice that there are many such words in the English Language that are quite similar and hence, confusing. If any student is asked about the difference between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’, most have a tough time figuring out the difference between these two as both of them refer to the potential one has in doing any task.

There is little difference between the two terms, and one has to be extra careful while using them. The article will discuss all the important aspects one needs to know about the difference that between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’. Let’s have a look at them.

Table Summarising the Difference between Ability and Capability

Meaning It refers to the potential or the skill that someone possesses for doing something. It refers to the power of a person to do something.
Usage It is used as a noun. It is used as a noun.
Example Helen had the ability to understand the French language. The team has the capability to win the match.

This table shows that though ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ mean the potential of someone to do something, they aren’t the same thing and can’t be used synonymously. Students often get confused between these words, but it is essential that they understand the context they are using those in. Then only they can use these terms correctly.

The Difference between Ability and Capability – Meanings

Yeah, it’s true that the words ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are used to refer to the potential someone has for doing something, and that’s precisely why students end up confusing them and using them interchangeably. We need to remember that they don’t mean the same thing. When the word ‘ability’ is used, it refers to the potential of the person in doing/achieving something, and there’s a high chance that they might successfully do so. But when the word ‘capability’ is used, it refers to the potential of the person to do something though they might not be able to do it successfully. For example, Rajesh has the ability to type at a speed of 50 words per minute; here, ‘ability’ means Rajesh can write 50 words per minute. Another example is “Sheldon had the capability to win the race had he not hurt his leg”; here, the word ‘capability’ is used to show that Sheldon has the potential to win the race, but due to the leg injury, he cannot do it this time. It is important that students keep in mind the subtle difference between these two words.

Examples of Ability and Capability

The following examples will help students to better understand the terms ‘ability’ and ‘capability’:

Ability – Howard’s ability to solve sums quickly made him the smartest in the class.

Capability – If Penny works a bit harder, she has the capability to score a good percentage in her final exams.

Once students understand the subtle difference between the words ‘ability’ and ‘capability’, they can quickly form examples independently.

Ability and Capability – Conclusion

To sum up, though, ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are used to express someone’s potential to do/achieve something but are not synonymous and can’t be used interchangeably. When using these words, one has to understand the context; otherwise, we might end up misusing them. This article talks about the essential points that help one to know how to use these two terms correctly. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘Differences Between Two Words’ that people often get confused with.


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