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ability vs. capability

English translation: It appears to me that...

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07:09 Dec 28, 2002
English to English translations [PRO]
English term or phrase: ability vs. capability
Capability:
the quality of being capable; practical ability

Ability:
1 a being able; power to do (something physical or mental)
2 skill, expertness, or talent

So far so good. But, when talking about sb showing his ... in closing a deal, for instance, which one should I use?

Thanks in advance! :^)
Andrea Ali
Argentina
Local time: 06:26
English translation:It appears to me that...
Explanation:
capability often refers to one's maximum ability, to one's limits of capacity for doing/accomplishing something;

on the other hand, ability is more applicable to the generic, non-quantifiable quality of being able to do something/capable of doing something

Ability is closer to a talent, a natural skill which is hard to quantify, whereas capability is more applicable to enterprizes, rather than persons, or, if it is applied to a person, it may more often reflect on limitations, rather than talents.

I will offer the following examples:

1. Her ex-husband's capability to pay alimony does not extend to supporting her drug habit.

2. His ability to listen attracts many who want to cry on his shoulder.



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Note added at 2002-12-28 07:30:53 (GMT)
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More examples:

1.She is capable of playing only one piece by Bach on the piano.

2. She is able to play the piano.

In these two examples, \"able\" means \"can,\" in general, while \"capable\" means how much (Bach) specifically she can play.



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Note added at 2002-12-28 07:33:57 (GMT)
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To answer your original question, in closing a deal, one should use (in my opinion):

1. He will be able to close the deal on January 15th (or, upon a certain other condition being met).

2. He is capable of closing a deal, because he has sufficient funds (or for other reasons - such as \"his credit was approved,\" \"he can move out now,\" \"he sold his former residence,\" etc.).
Selected response from:

Montefiore
United States
Local time: 02:26
Grading comment
Thanks a lot! :^)))
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +4It appears to me that...
Montefiore
5 +1abilityPaul Stevens
5eitherChris Rowson
4Either is possible with slightly different shades of meaningPeter Coles
4Capability stands more on its own, as in, He shows great capability in his work.Refugio


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


17 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
It appears to me that...


Explanation:
capability often refers to one's maximum ability, to one's limits of capacity for doing/accomplishing something;

on the other hand, ability is more applicable to the generic, non-quantifiable quality of being able to do something/capable of doing something

Ability is closer to a talent, a natural skill which is hard to quantify, whereas capability is more applicable to enterprizes, rather than persons, or, if it is applied to a person, it may more often reflect on limitations, rather than talents.

I will offer the following examples:

1. Her ex-husband's capability to pay alimony does not extend to supporting her drug habit.

2. His ability to listen attracts many who want to cry on his shoulder.



--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-12-28 07:30:53 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

More examples:

1.She is capable of playing only one piece by Bach on the piano.

2. She is able to play the piano.

In these two examples, \"able\" means \"can,\" in general, while \"capable\" means how much (Bach) specifically she can play.



--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-12-28 07:33:57 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

To answer your original question, in closing a deal, one should use (in my opinion):

1. He will be able to close the deal on January 15th (or, upon a certain other condition being met).

2. He is capable of closing a deal, because he has sufficient funds (or for other reasons - such as \"his credit was approved,\" \"he can move out now,\" \"he sold his former residence,\" etc.).

Montefiore
United States
Local time: 02:26
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian
PRO pts in pair: 66
Grading comment
Thanks a lot! :^)))

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxEDLING
47 mins
  -> thank you:)

agree  Anne Lee
4 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  GingerR
6 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  Yuri Geifman
8 hrs
  -> ñïàñèáî, Þðèé:)
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34 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Capability stands more on its own, as in, He shows great capability in his work.


Explanation:
Ability is more often modified with an adjective, as in, He showed great bargaining ability in closing the deal.

She has great musical ability.

Montefiore makes some good points as well.


Refugio
Local time: 02:26
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 485
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
either


Explanation:
They are not the same, but they are both words which have a wide variety of meaning. In your specific sentence "He showed his X in closing a ideal" they both work, and have pretty much the same meaning.

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Note added at 2002-12-28 08:48:43 (GMT)
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\"The two words both have a wide variety of meanings, which gives both of them the ability/the capability to function well in your specific sentence.\" There are of course other ways to phrase my sentence here, some of which might be preferred for various reasons, but this form illustrates how, in this type of context, they function equivalently.

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Note added at 2002-12-28 11:03:54 (GMT)
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Paul, below, is reading it as \"ability to close a deal\", in which case I agree, \"capability\" doesn´t sound right at all.

But if the sentence is \" ... displayed his ability in closing a deal\", I understand it as equivalent to \" ... by closing a deal, he displayed his ability\" (e.g. his ability as a salesman), and stand by my view that \"ability\" and \"capability\" both work, and mean the same.

Chris Rowson
Local time: 11:26
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 243

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Paul Stevens: Re your last comment - however you look at it, "capability" still does not really fit into the specific phrase - you've even used "ability" in both examples, as if you, too, are uncomfortablr with "capability"
9 hrs
  -> " ... displayed his capability as a salesman" - seems perfectly natural to me.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
ability


Explanation:
is definitely the better option here, in my opinion, Capabaility just does not sound right to me,

I would also say "ability to close a deal" rather than "ability in closing a deal".

Exp. English from birth.

HTH

Paul Stevens
Local time: 10:26
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Chris Rowson: Your modification of the sentence doesn´t quite mean the same. In the given form, he may be displaying other capabilities, or a wider general capability than simply that of closing a deal.
10 mins
  -> Don't quite follow your first comment, and, in my opinion, capability still sounds odd

agree  Peter Coles: Though I Chris is right to flag the difference between one's innate "ability to close a deal" based on experience and training and the demonstration of this "ability in closing a (specific) deal".
7 hrs
  -> Note and take on board your comment , but (a) I would still say "ability to close a (specific) deal and (b) "capability" does not sound right at all in either phrase to me
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8 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Either is possible with slightly different shades of meaning


Explanation:
As the previous responses have shown, the differences are at best subtle. If you used either term in the context that you provided, you would be understood, especially if there were a wider context that added further information.

Personally I would read "he showed his ability in closing a deal" to mean that by closing a specific deal he showed his personal and innate skill at winning business.

Whilst "he showed his capability (or capabilities) in closing a deal" would suggest to me a glimpse not just of his personal ability but also the wider resources, e.g. the technical expertise of his organisation, that he was able draw upon or promise in order to win the business.

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Note added at 2002-12-28 16:10:41 (GMT)
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Statistically, I would expect ability to appear a little more frequently that capability in this context, and consequently, it feels slightly more natural - though the actual choice should, of course, be based on the meaning that you wished to convey.

Peter Coles
Local time: 10:26
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 47
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