Imagine you are describing someone who has lots of abilities in a field (for example, a scientist who knows a lot about a specific topic and has had done lots of researches in that respect and has written a lot of articles in that regard).

He can do any project related to that topic.

Which one of the following sentences works better:

  • He is very capable in this field.

  • He is able in this field.

As far as I know, the latter one should be a more precise example, because the scientist in the question can do anything right now and he has proved it prior to this.

  • 3
    The first example is idiomatic; the second is not. Stick with "capable" in this instance. – Mark Hubbard Jan 6 '17 at 15:52
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    I'd say competent is far more idiomatic for your context (and able is very unlikely). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 6 '17 at 16:05
  • If using competent as suggested by @FumbleFingers, you can use adverbs such as highly or extremely in the place of very to signify higher competence. – Chris Rogers Jan 6 '17 at 16:32

He is very capable in this field.

This is a very normal way of expressing what you intend, as is "competent" as pointed out by FumbleFingers. The able version of the sentence does not work for this context. "Able" is more often used to mean that someone is not prohibited or restricted from doing something - not that they are good at it.

| improve this answer | |

capable = competent
He is very capable in his field.

means he can do things in his area of expertise better than most.

You could also say


He is outstanding in his field.

(sorry, I couldn't resist)

| improve this answer | |

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