Difference between Capability and Ability | Ability vs Capability

The words ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are quite frequently used, 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 confusing. If any student is asked what the difference between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ is, they will have a tough time figuring out the difference as both of them refer to the potential one has to do things.

But there’s 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 lies between ability and capability. Let’s have a look at them.

Table Summarising the Difference between Ability and Capability




It refers to the potential or the skill that someone possesses to do something.

It refers to the power of a person to do something.


It is used as a noun.

It is used as a noun.


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’ means 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’s essential that they understand the context they are using it in. Only then can they use these terms correctly.

The Difference between Ability and Capability – Meaning

Yeah, it’s true that the words ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are used to refer to the potential someone has to do something. And that’s the reason why students end up confusing them and using them interchangeably. But they don’t mean the same thing. When the word ‘ability’ is used, it refers to the potential of the person to do/achieve 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 can’t this time. It is important that students keep in mind the subtle difference between the words.

Example of Ability and Capability

The following example 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 on their own.

Ability and Capability – Conclusion

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

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