Difference Between Ability and Capability
Ability vs Capability
The difference in meaning between the words ability and capability is pretty thin. You really can’t blame the majority of the public using the words interchangeably. Although they seem to have close definitions, it is important to note that using one in place of the other is sometimes inappropriate.
By definition, capability is usually defined as the feature of being capable of something. In short, it is practical ability. This is probably where the confusion sets in because the definition of the word capability makes use of the word ability. Conversely, ability is a word that pertains to being able. This means that when one is considered to have the ability then he is able to do or has the means to do something may it be mental or physical. Ability also connotes one’s skill, talent and level of expertise.
In common practice, ability is much nearer to describe talents of people whereas capability is more applicable in reflecting the worth of being capable of an organization, group or company, and not humans. But in the event when the word capability is used to describe people, then it will not mean talents but a form of limitation. This distinction is clearly shown in the following examples.
In this first example, ‘His wife’s capability to cook does not include preparing desserts and baking’, the word capability is more appropriate. Next, in this second example ‘Her ability to memorize an entire book within two consecutive readings seems to be a superhuman feat’, ability is more applicable. The reason for such is because in the first example the ‘thing’ being tackled is not a talent or expertise but a limitation. In the second sentence example, ability is more appropriate because it’s more of a skill or talent that a person possessed.
Unlike ability, capability also has a more future oriented meaning ‘“ it has the feature or potential of being developed. Hence ,ability is likened to the actual level of something while capability is the potential level. This can be shown in the sentence, ‘An early school-aged child can only multiply simple numbers so he has the ability to do such and, at the same time, he has the capability to multiply more complex numbers as he grows older.’
Overall, both words (ability and capability) can be used synonymously in informal English but one is more appropriate for use than the other in particular situations because:
1. Capability is more inclined if used to describe organizations, groups or companies while ability is more applicable if the one to be described is a person or an individual.
2. Capability is synonymous to a person, group or firms practical ability while ability is more of one’s talents, skills or level of expertise.
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