What does "in official capacity" mean? I was thinking it meant "officially" or "publicly", but it seems to mean "representing the government officially". So it might be wrong to say the following:

The military accepted the deal in an official capacity.

The government accepted the deal in an official capacity.

The country accepted the deal in an official capacity.

I am unsure if we can use the phrase in such a variety of ways. It seems technically wrong. Also, I am unsure what "capacity" exactly means. There's the legal definition and there's the more general definition of it, so I am still unsure how to use the phrase correctly.

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    I don't think you've made up meaningful examples. My suggestion: My father, a policeman, said to me "You have broken the law. As your dad I would just tell you off, but in my official capacity as a cop I am going to arrest you." Another one: "As your friend I would like to thank you for your help, but in my official capacity as Mayor I can recommend an award". – Weather Vane Jul 31 '19 at 14:10
  • What @WeatherVane said, I'm not sure agents like the military, the government, the country can ever really be said to "accept a deal" in anything other than "an official capacity", since such organisations are by definition the "official representatives" of their relevant area of responsibility. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 31 '19 at 14:18
  • Yeah, I used bad examples purposefully, because I felt they were wrong, but I wasn't sure. – blackbird Jul 31 '19 at 14:57

Official agencies such as the military, by definition, always act in an "official capacity". It's only with individuals where we have to try to distinguish their "personal" actions from their "official" ones.

For example, an ambassador to a foreign country might ask a friend, a diplomat, to dinner at the embassy. The friend could then ask:

Am I expected to attend in my official capacity, or is this just an informal get-together?

which is to say, is the friend going there to discuss official matters of state, or is she just going to chat with her friend? Of course, being diplomats, maybe it's a little of both, and maybe there never is such a thing as a truly informal meeting. But you get the idea.

Additionally, individual officials can attend official events but not in their "official capacity", meaning that they are only there to observe or provide some kind of "unofficial" input. For example:

The chief justice sat in on the tribunal, but not in any official capacity, as he claimed he simply had a personal interest in the outcome.

You can imagine many other variations on this situation, in which someone with some kind of official power participates in an event without exercising that power.

It may be possible for some agencies of the government to act in an unofficial capacity, but this would be rare, and I really can't think of any good examples. Perhaps something like having an office from the national bank process a visa request, something normally handled by a different office ... but it's a stretch.

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What does “in official capacity” mean?

It is someone who is an officer (a person who has a position of authority) in an organisation, a member of the Military who is in a position of authority or a police officer who is carrying out a duty involved with their office.

The above examples are therefore all wrong. Only an officer within an organisation can carry out duties in their official capacity. Bodies corporate, Governments etc are excluded. However, senior government ministers like the Foreign secretary will have official duties.


No other officials attended in an official capacity.

But it is obviously not a matter which he could take up in his official capacity

It was a very gross libel, if true, upon two judicial officers in their official capacity.

For clarity. Official routes from office. The Office has the Duty (responsibility) , The officer/official carries out the Duty . Duties are carried out by the Officer/Official in his official capacity as an officer of the organisation.

All refrences from The Cambridge English Dictionary

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