Ability vs Capacity
Ability and capacity are two words that are confusing as both have similar meanings, and making people use them interchangeably. However, despite similarities, there are enough difference between the two to justify their usage in different contexts. Dictionaries are not very helpful in finding the differences between ability and capacity as both are described as synonyms, or one is explained in terms of another. Let us take a closer look.
Ability is the skill or competency to perform a task whether it is physical, mental, or pertaining to language or any other field. Ability is something that one is born with, as it is dependent upon the genetic makeup of a person. For example, we have people good at physical sports while some have rhythm in their body and prefer gymnastics. Some people are born with the ability to handle languages easily; thereby learning languages quickly, while some people are at ease while making calculations and are thus proficient in math. Ability is a property that is either there or not. If one has ability, it becomes easier to help a person master a task in the related area by imparting him knowledge and latest techniques.
In science, capacity is defined as the maximum ability of a person or object. For example, when the capacity of a cylindrical glass is discussed, we talk about the maximum amount of fluid it can hold. Translating this concept to humans; a person may have the reflexes, speed, and stamina to become a boxer but his capacity is the time for which he can withstand the punches of his opponent. There is a great difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner as both have different abilities and capacities. It is because of muscle power that a sprinter explodes out of starting blocks. Therefore, if an athlete has this ability, he can become a great sprinter while a long distance runner is a result of much higher stamina and endurance that are totally different abilities. A boxer’s capacity is his ability to withstand punches of his opponent for the duration of a bout.
Sometimes, especially in times of adversity, human beings have shown the trait of exceeding their normal capacity to save their lives. In general, however, capacity remains the upper limit up to which they can withstand in any aspect of life.
What is the difference between Ability and Capacity?
• Ability is what one is born with; it is dependent upon the genetic makeup of an individual.
• Capacity is a result of effort and it can be increased through constant exercises and effort.
• Ability can be physical or mental.
• Capacity refers to the potential that an individual can reach in future.
• Capacity is the maximum limit to which a person or machine can perform without compromising with quality.
Graeme Wend-Walker says
I read two sentences and couldn’t go any further.
The first sentence under “Ability” is missing a word. (“Or” before “pertaining.” This, by the way, is the difference between knowing how to make a list and not knowing how to make a list.)
The next sentence… Where do I begin? According to you, reading and writing aren’t abilities because they aren’t “genetic.” Being able to throw a frisbee, or cook an egg, or play the violin… None of these are abilities. Apparently.