Can I use "should be able to" to mean "will be able to" in a sentence like this? "They should be able to work with anyone."


No they are not the same.

"Should be able to" lacks certainty. Some things should happen, but do not.

"Will be able to" carries certainty of belief that something will happen.

So your example:

They should be able to work with anyone.

This would mean that somebody ought to be able to work with anyone - perhaps that they have the ability to. If this was said prior to two people being placed at work together I would interpret this the same as if somebody said "I'm 99% sure they can work together". But sometimes an expression like this can be said after something has not happened, to express surprise. For example, if two people did not work well together then someone who knows one of the people well might say "they should be able to work with anyone" as a way of suggesting that what actually happened was unexpected, out of character, or even inexcusable.

They will be able to work with anyone.

This shows belief on the part of the speaker and would only be used before the fact, to state that "they" will be able to work with anyone.


Without further context, we don't know what should means exactly, but we do know that it does not mean will, although its meaning can come close to that.

This catalytic converter should be compatible with any model between 2010 and 2015.

The speaker is saying in respect to that auto part that he believes strongly it will be compatible with those model years. He has no reason to think otherwise. "I see no reason why it would not be compatible". But the statement falls shy of "It is compatible".

So, in your example, if the speaker is speaking about someone he believes to have good people skills, he might say:

They should be able to work with anyone.

He sees no reason why they would not be able to work with anyone.

But if the speaker is making clear what kind of interpersonal skills a job applicant must have, he could use the very same words:

They should be able to work with anyone.

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