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Capability vs. Capable: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 12, 2023
Capability is a noun referring to the quality or state of being capable, or the range of what someone or something can do. Capable is an adjective describing having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing.

Key Differences

Capability refers to the potential or capacity for something, often used in a broader, more abstract context. It's a noun representing what can be done, the extent of someone's or something's abilities. Capable, on the other hand, is an adjective describing someone or something as having the ability or qualities necessary to perform a particular task or role. It's more about the present ability rather than potential.
Capability often implies a range of skills or abilities that a person or thing possesses, potentially untapped. It's about what might be achievable under the right conditions. For example, a company's capability to innovate. Capable denotes effectiveness and proficiency in the current context, such as a capable leader or a capable piece of software, indicating they are currently performing effectively.
In usage, capability often appears in contexts discussing potential or theoretical abilities. It's about possibilities and what could be done. For instance, discussing a country's military capabilities. Capable is used to describe actual competence or skill in the here and now, focusing on what someone or something is currently able to do.
When discussing capability, it encompasses a range of abilities or functions, often in a more general sense. It's about the capacity to achieve various outcomes. Capable is more specific, pointing to the ability to accomplish a certain task or fulfill a specific role effectively.
Capability often appears in strategic, planning, or potential-oriented discussions, like in business or technology, to indicate what might be achievable in the future. Capable is more about current abilities and is commonly used in everyday language to describe competency in a specific area or task.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech


Context of Use

Potential abilities or range of functions
Current ability or skill in a specific area


Theoretical or potential skills
Actual, present-day competence or effectiveness


Broader, more general abilities
Specific skills or qualifications


What could be done under certain conditions
What is currently being done effectively

Capability and Capable Definitions


Potential or latent qualities.
The new software has the capability to revolutionize our workflow.


Able to achieve efficiently what is needed.
The software is capable of processing large amounts of data quickly.


A feature or characteristic that can be developed.
Her leadership capability was evident even in her youth.


Qualified or fit for a purpose.
She proved herself capable in high-pressure situations.


The extent of someone's or something's abilities.
The company's capability to innovate sets it apart from competitors.


Having the ability or qualities necessary for a specific task.
She is capable of handling the project on her own.


The ability or qualities to do something.
The smartphone's capability to handle complex tasks impresses me.


Competent or skilled.
He's a very capable mechanic.


The range of functions or actions possible.
This device has the capability of connecting to multiple networks.


Having the capacity or potential for something.
The team is capable of winning the championship.


The quality of being capable; ability.


Having capacity or ability; efficient and able
A capable administrator. See Usage Note at able.


Often capabilities A talent or ability that has potential for development or use
A student of great capabilities.


Having the ability required for a specific task or accomplishment; qualified
Capable of winning.


The capacity to be used, treated, or developed for a specific purpose
Nuclear capability.


Having the inclination or disposition
Capable of violence.


The power or ability to generate an outcome


Permitting an action to be performed
An error capable of remedy.
A camera capable of being used underwater.


(computing) A digital token allowing a user or process to interact in a specified way with an object that is subject to access control.


Able and efficient; having the ability needed for a specific task; having the disposition to do something; permitting or being susceptible to something.
She is capable and efficient.
He does not need help; he is capable of eating on his own.
As everyone knew, he was capable of violence when roused.
That fact is not capable of proof.


The quality of being capable; capacity; capableness; esp. intellectual power or ability.
A capability to take a thousand views of a subject.


(obsolete) Of sufficient capacity or size for holding, containing, receiving or taking in; accessible to. Construed with of, for or an infinitive.


Capacity of being used or improved.


Possessing ability, qualification, or susceptibility; having capacity; of sufficient size or strength; as, a room capable of holding a large number; a castle capable of resisting a long assault.
Concious of joy and capable of pain.


The quality of being capable -- physically or intellectually or legally;
He worked to the limits of his capability


Possessing adequate power; qualified; able; fully competent; as, a capable instructor; a capable judge; a mind capable of nice investigations.
More capable to discourse of battles than to give them.


The susceptibility of something to a particular treatment;
The capability of a metal to be fused


Possessing legal power or capacity; as, a man capable of making a contract, or a will.


An aptitude that may be developed


Capacious; large; comprehensive.


(usually followed by `of') having capacity or ability;
Capable of winning
Capable of hard work
Capable of walking on two feet


Possibly accepting or permitting;
A passage capable of misinterpretation
Open to interpretation
An issue open to question
The time is fixed by the director and players and therefore subject to much variation


(followed by `of') having the temperament or inclination for;
No one believed her capable of murder


Having the requisite qualities for;
Equal to the task
The work isn't up to the standard I require


Have the skills and qualifications to do things well;
Able teachers
A capable administrator
Children as young as 14 can be extremely capable and dependable


Is capability always about potential?

Yes, it often refers to potential abilities or qualities, not just current ones.

Is capability only used in technical or business contexts?

No, it can be used in various contexts, but it's common in technical or strategic discussions.

Can a person have capabilities they are not currently using?

Yes, capabilities can include dormant or untapped abilities.

Does capable imply proficiency?

Yes, it suggests competence or skill in a particular area.

Can capabilities change over time?

Yes, as skills are developed or circumstances change, capabilities can evolve.

Can capable be used to describe things, not just people?

Yes, both people and objects can be described as capable.

Can capability refer to a range of skills?

Yes, it often refers to a spectrum of potential abilities.

Does being capable mean being the best at something?

Not necessarily. It means being sufficiently skilled or competent, not necessarily the best.

Is being capable the same as being experienced?

Not exactly. Capability implies ability, while experience implies practice and familiarity.

Is being capable enough to succeed?

Being capable is important, but success often requires more, like opportunity and effort.

Is it possible to overestimate one's capabilities?

Yes, people can sometimes overestimate what they are capable of doing.

Is capable always a positive description?

Generally, yes, it denotes effectiveness or competence.

Can someone be capable in one area but not another?

Absolutely. Capability is often specific to certain tasks or fields.

Do capabilities guarantee success?

Not always. They are potential abilities that need to be effectively utilized.

Can organizations have capabilities?

Yes, organizations can have collective capabilities, like innovation or adaptability.

Are capability and capacity the same?

Not exactly. Capacity often refers to volume or amount, while capability refers to ability.

Can technology have capabilities?

Yes, technology can have capabilities in terms of features or functions.

Does capable always refer to current abilities?

Typically, yes. It usually describes present-day skills or competencies.

Can capabilities be innate or are they always learned?

They can be both innate and developed through learning and experience.

Does capable imply independence?

Often, yes. It suggests the ability to perform tasks without needing help.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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