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Ability vs Capability


  • ‘Ability’ (noun) refers to the skill, competence or aptitude to do something.
  • ‘Capability’ (noun) refers to the power or potential to achieve something.

What’s the difference between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’?

Because they are so similar in form and meaning, ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ are easily confused. There is a very subtle semantic difference between them, though.

  • The word ‘ability’ has more to do with skill or competence, while ‘capability’ has more to do with power or resources.
  • It has been suggested that ‘ability’ is more often used for people while ‘capability’ is more appropriate for machines, objects or organizations, but this is not an absolute rule.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘ability’

  • She was deemed a writer of great ability.
  • The effect was strongest in people with high cognitive ability.

Example sentences with ‘capability’

  • The device showed great capability for processing complex tasks.
  • Such weapons have the capability to destroy a country.