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Today’s IELTS word of the day is



Another extremely use set of words today. There is a technical meaning to capacity, which is very similar in meaning to volume/room, but the words are perhaps more useful when used to mean role or ability.  I’d suggest that there are great for talking and writing about jobs and employment in general.

Forms of the word

  • capacity – a noun that this both countable and uncountable
  • incapacity – the negative form that is only uncountable
  • incapacitate – the verb (note the -ate ending which is commonly used to make verbs from nouns

Related words

These extremely common words are also closely related and worth looking at:

  • capable – similar to able
  • incapable – the negative
  • capability – the noun form (again countable and uncountable)

Problems with grammar and prepositions

These words are great but they do have quite complex grammar:

  • capacity for + noun: there is capacity for growth.
  • capacity for + verbing: capacity for growing. (This is really just the same as  growth Remember that the gerund (verb+ing) is also a noun.)
  • capacity to + verb: there is capacity to improve
  • the capacity of: the capacity of the lecture theatre is 200 students

There are particular problems with capable here:

  • capable of: I don’t know what you are capable of 
  • capable of + noun: He is capable of anything. 
  • capable of + verbing: He is capable of achieving anything he sets his mind to

Some common collocations

  • have: My local authority states that it has the capacity to educate thousands of students. (similar to room)
  • personal/professional: I am not advising you here in my professional capacity, I am talking to you as a friend. (role)
  • act in: I am not acting in my professional capacity here, I am talking to you as a friend. (role)
  • in ….. as: In my capacity as your boss, I have to say your performance this year has been extremely disappointing. (role)
  • manufacturing: Manufacturing capacity has fallen all across Europe. (volume)
  • at full: In China, by contrast, most factories are now working at full capacity. (volume)
  • mental/intellectual: Not everyone has the mental capacity to work as an academic. (ability)

A quick note on able/ability and capable/capability

This is a tough one. The words are very close in meaning and usage and are frequently interchangeable. There is though some differences between them. This is a very quick outline of the difference.


We use this for more for potential and there is sometimes an implied meaning that it won’t happen

He is capable of doing it  – can imply that he can do it but won’t

We also tend to use it more for organisations, whereas able is used more for persons (not a rule!).

IBM are capable of producing 200,000 computers every day

I have the ability to speak Romanian.

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