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Subject:RE: Ability vs Capability From:Hal Wrobel <hwrobel -at- toptier -dot- com> To:'Nancy C Kendall' <Nancy -dot- C -dot- Kendall -at- aexp -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Thu, 22 Jun 2000 00:53:55 -0700
>> I'm curious about why you need to make such a distinction, and what that
>> distinction is. Why can't either word be used for both situations?
Nancy Kendall repied:
> Actually, my question was mostly a "curiosity question". One of those
> in live that I wonder about when I don't have enough other stuff to do!
> If both words can be used interchangably, why have both words? Why not
> the English language easier by eliminating those words that mean the same
> thing as other words? Why not use one word that means one precise thing?
> might make it easier for those who have English as a second language.
> automated translations would be easier. Oh well...it is time to go home
I haven't followed this thread, and I'm not sure why I opened this
particular message. Anyway, even though I am hard put to explain the
difference in nuance between these two words, a difference exists. The word
"capable" can express a connotation, an ethical, moral, and/or emotional
structure in the object it describes, that the word "able" cannot. For
example, you can say that someone is not capable of committing a certain act
(such as a crime), whereas that same person may certainly be able to do so.
The online Merriam-Webster doesn't refer to this meaning of "capable", only
to its overlap in meaning with "able".
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