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Ability is a conceptually broad term referring to possession of the talents and skills necessary to perform a current task. This assumes therefore that any learning or developmental processes necessary have already been attained.

Ability may be:

General synonyms

Skills, abilities, and aptitudes are similarly related but distinct, descriptions of what a person can do, and should not be conflated.

  • Skills are a backward looking description. Skills describe what a person has learned to do in the past.
  • Abilities are a present description. Abilities describe what a person can do now.
  • Aptitudes are a forward looking description. Aptitudes describe what a person has the ability to do in the future. They describe what a person can learn to do.

Other related concepts are:

Intellectual ability

Main article: Intelligence and ability

Intelligence tests generally measure ability both in terms of general ability as well as specific abilities. They can sometimes also be used to predict aptitude for future learning.

Social and communication abilities

Nonverbal ability

Physical abilities

Other abilities


See also