Ability vs Capability: Difference and Comparison

The basic definition of either can be seen as pretty simple and even similar to each other. But only with a much deeper look can one find the differences between these two words.


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The standard definition of ability in any dictionary is the quality or caliber to do any task, whether mentally, physically, or otherwise.

On the other hand, capability can be defined as one’s ability to do something.

Both are used for talents, skills, or even the expertise of individuals or organizations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ability refers to possessing a skill or competence to perform a particular task, while capability refers to the potential or aptitude to learn or acquire a skill.
  2. Ability is specific and based on acquired skills, while capability is more general and focuses on the potential to acquire new skills.
  3. Ability is the manifestation of a skill that can be demonstrated, while capability is the inherent capacity to learn a skill and adapt to new situations.

Ability vs. Capability

Ability refers to existing skills in a person. It also covers their knowledge in a certain area and their proficiency level. Capacity is a person’s potential or capability to do something, regardless of whether they have already developed the skills and knowledge necessary.

Ability vs Capability

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonAbilityCapability
MeaningIt is the quality or caliber to do any task, mentally, physically, or otherwise.The potential or capacity to do a task.
ExampleEducation is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.The Number of our envious Person confirmation of our capability.
OriginsOlder in origin.Newer compared to ability.
UsageGenerally used about individuals. Used about an organization. 

What is Ability?

From a very young age, one is taught to be “able” and have the willpower and capacity to pursue what one sets their heart on, irrespective of the task.

Every individual is encouraged to tap into their inner potential or ability to do a task that may seem impossible at first glance.

Though there is no strict definition of the word, in the most basic sense, it is the capacity to achieve.

The word ability originates in Latin from “habilis,” which means “to be able.” The ability of any individual can be divided into three broad categories, which are mental, physical, and psychometric. 

Mental ability consists of the intellectual capacity or wits of any individual, these range from verbal comprehension,

the ability to under and process words and how they connect, and number aptitude is the ability to do calculations accurately.

Followed by Inductive reasoning, which is the capacity for the practical application of theory and ideas learned in books.

Two of the most important mental abilities are memory and perceptual speed, which refer to the imaginative abilities of an individual.

Physical abilities include Dynamic strength, Trunk strength, Static strength, Extent, and Dynamic flexibility.

Two of the most important physical abilities are equilibrium, which is to maintain a steady state of the body,

it helps us to walk and essentially perform all tasks. The other is Gross body coordination which, as the name suggests, is how one can coordinate the different parts of the body to facilitate movements and so on.

Psychomotor Abilities are more niche than the others though not unknown, like Manual and finger dexterity, like being able to control and coordinate the movement of small objects.

Others include aiming and reaction time, for example being able to throw an arrow.


What is Capability?

Capability is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as being capable, having the aptitude or fitness to do something. This is mainly related to organizational capabilities, which vary from organization to organization.

However, they have a few common terms, like communication, organizational, and professional capabilities. 

In communication capabilities to identify and address communication within the company and their clients.

To have smooth communications between the different departments, to communicate effectively across all the social media platforms, and to form strategies about improving on the same. 

Concerning organizational capabilities which is to enhance and build the organization’s reputation and build a better relationship between the company and stakeholders.

Professional capabilities include providing better counsel and leadership to the company workers. Also, have a smooth functioning, ethical, and harmonious company. 

Not just this, in the case of an individual, it varies leadership, learning, collaborative capacity, innovations, communications, teamwork, integrity, and so on.

Any company or organization hiring an individual always look for capability or potential.

It represents how an individual can grow and learn while with the organization, which will benefit both the company and the individual.


Main Differences Between Ability and Capability

  1. The basic meaning and usage are capability implies potential, whereas ability implies possibility. 
  2. Regarding usage, “ability” is used about individuals, while “capability”  is generally used concerning organizations.
  3. With respect to the history of the words, “ability” is the older of the two.
  4. Ability pertains to an individual, so the general types of it are mental, physical, and psychometric abilities. Regarding capabilities, they are professional, communicational, and organizational.
  5. For example, someone can have the ability to understand and process a book. While for capability, someone can have the capability to read the same book, but maybe they are not trying.
Difference Between Ability and Capability
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197101904452
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019850116301821
  3. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2008.143651
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