• What are the difference between good at, adept at, and excel at?
  • What are the occasions where one is more fitting than the other?

While I was writing this question, I stumped over another conundrum: should've I used fitting or befitting? & How can they function differently?

I searched for the cut-and-dried answer in several sites, but no such luck.


1 Answer 1


Thanks to @TeacherKSHuang here is:

  • Good at - average, not great but not bad.
  • Excel at/in - very good at.
  • Adept at - usually involves a physical rather than a mental skill such as throwing a ball, hammering nails, or driving a car. Applies to "fine motor control" such as sewing rather than "gross motor control" such as running.

  • Excel at - more with sports and gross motor control, such as basketball or hockey.
  • Excel in - more with mental things, like playing chess.

Excel at and Excel in are fairly interchangeable.

You could use "Adept in" before, however, it's archaic usage and "adept" can also be a noun as in:

  • "He is an adept in football."

I would add to @Sedgehead's answer that:

  • "Adept at" - mostly means very skilled or proficient at something.


You can be good at/in {doing} something (but not proficient), you can be excel at or excel in (Excellent) {doing} something, you can be adept at/in, proficient at/in/with, skilled at/in/with, expert at/on/in or skillful at/in/with.

Here are examples of using these adjectives with prepositions adept, skilled, proficient, skillful, excellent and good.

  • Note that none of these have any real objective meaning. Someone can say they are "adept" at something which someone else thinks they are merely "adequate" at. Instead the words should be ranked relative to each other in terms of better/worse ability. For example, "adept" is better than "good", and "excel at" is (somewhat) better than "adept".
    – Andrew
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 14:27

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