Able vs. Capable


The word able means ‘having the ability to perform a given task.’ Usually, we use the adjective ‘able’ with infinitive ‘to’ to mean having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something: ‘he’s an able mechanic’; ‘she was able to swim at the age of six’; ‘he would never be able to afford such a luxury car.’

The word capable means ‘having adequate capacity to do or to make’ or ‘having adequate capacity to receive an action’: ‘a highly capable man’; ‘the child looked eager and capable’; ‘do you think Liam is capable of lifting 100 pounds?’

The major difference between able and capable is ‘able’ has a broader meaning in one’s ability; while ‘capable’ shows one’s ability in a more specialized aspect. Secondly, generally we use ‘able’ to describe current things someone can do, while we use ‘capable’ to talk about their future potential. However, this difference is not a strict rule; it’s just a general trend.

This technology has the ability to enhance daily living from appliances to mobile devices and computers. (it can currently do this)

This technology has the capability to end world diseases. (it has the possibility of doing this in the future)

Example sentences of able

He was able to break free and punch one of the robbers.

He’s able to sing this song perfectly after hearing it only once.

She wondered if they would be able to qualify for World Test Championship.

In these times of pandemic, we know we wouldn’t be able to afford such taxes.

On my vacation, I was able to read a lot that will help me at work.

They will be able to travel on one of the company’s several ships.

William has just started to be able to walk but will never have full mobility again.

It is not known if any of the athletes will be able to compete at the international level.

Hot Dog was able to hear Jughead through the speaker on the phone.

More example sentences of able

I hope you will be able to take a few moments to introspect as to what you want out of life.

He may not have been able to afford to live in such magnificent houses but he befriended the people who could.

She has been learning the martial art since she was eight and now is able to break a concrete block with her bare hands.

But this year, they won’t be able to go door-to-door to register voters due to social distancing guidelines.

This year had been a really hard year and I would have never been able to afford to pay for it.

It has been ages since I saw this movie on TV and have yet to be able to find it in a video store.

Example sentences of capable

You can leave the team’s fortunes in the capable hands of Timothy Green.

All credit to Warrington, they played well and they are a very capable team.

Although he was technically quite capable, the job became more difficult for him.

He was a very capable mechanic and able to fix any new car that comes into the shop.

Teams of highly trained and capable engineers were recruited by the IT department.

He proved a capable administrator and had no hesitation in taking the tough decisions.

The movie is in the capable directorial hands of George Lucas and also stars Carrie Fisher.

The maid is extremely capable and cooks, cleans and does all household chores.

More example sentences of capable

The Chief Justice, a very nice and capable young man, agreed that the whole story was made up.

He was in fact a highly capable teacher and so was well able to achieve celebrity status.

She feels better and more capable, and more attractive now than she has ever felt in life.

This team of doctors is definitely capable but we will have to wait and see what happens.

All in all, he proved a capable administrator, handling all day to day affairs with aplomb.

Notice that the opposite of able is unable, and the opposite of capable is incapable.
Capable of doing something: Having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing.

She’s capable of becoming a successful actor.

She’s quite capable of taking care of the children.

The car is capable of running 500 miles non-stop.

Some players are failing to achieve the results of which they are capable.

They’ve proved capable in the past of coming from behind and they’ve handled the heat.

Manchester United finally showed how capable they were of springing from defence into attack.

They all felt they were a good side but not in their wildest dreams did they think they were capable of winning the match.

What is good is that Brazil now strive not just to win but to play the game of which they know themselves capable.

Notice that when you use a past tense, you mean that someone has actually done something: They were able to cut costs without cutting staff.


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