Difference Between Capacity and Capability

Capacity vs Capability

Capacity and capability are two concepts that are very confusing for people trying to master the language. This is because of the similarities in the meanings of these two words and also because of the fact that these words are used in similar contexts. However, there are differences between capacity and capability that will be highlighted in this article, to enable readers to choose the either term correctly while speaking or writing English language.


If one looks up in a dictionary, he finds that capacity is variously defined as, the power to hold, accommodate, or receive something. For example, the capacity of a container is the amount of liquid or water it can hold, which is measured in liters. When we buy cold drinks in the market, the capacity of the bottles is printed clearly on the outside in milliliters or cc. This meaning or sense is, however, limited to containers, bags, tanks of motorcycle and cars and so on. The number of seat an auditorium can hold or the numbers of people that can sit in a bus describe the capacities of the auditorium and the bus respectively.

The word is also used to describe the abilities or powers of human beings to do or understand something as when a person is said to have a great capacity for hard work or the capacity to lift loads or weights.


Capability is a feature, an ability, or competence that can be developed in a person. It could refer to an ability that exists in an individual but can be improved upon. For example, a sprinter may finish 100 m race in 11 seconds, but his coach feels that the runner has the capability to do it in less than 10 seconds. This is a feature that teachers and coaches see in their wards and select them on the basis of their capabilities. The potential to develop or improve is thus the capability of an individual. The performance of a student may be good, but his teacher feels that he has the potential to fare even better.

A drug that has been discovered is described as having the capability to treat a serious disease even if it cannot be used right away because of some side effects. Similarly, a metal may have the capability to be used in space applications because of its properties with some modifications. Capability thus is the sum of the present or existing ability or capacity plus the expertise of the individual to go further.

What is the difference between Capacity and Capability?

• Capacity is the ability that exists at present and capability refers to the higher level of ability that an individual can achieve or improve to

• Capacity is the ability to hold, accommodate, or receive as in the capacity of a container or a bottle.

• If a person is said to be capable of learning many languages, it talks of his potential to learn the languages