9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[in-key-puh-buh l] /ɪnˈkeɪ pə bəl/
not capable.
not having the necessary ability, qualification, or strength to perform some specified act or function:
As an administrator, he is simply incapable.
without ordinary capability; incompetent.
a thoroughly incompetent person, especially one of defective mentality.
incapable of,
  1. not having the ability, qualification, or strength for (a specified act or function).
  2. not open to; not susceptible to or admitting:
    These materials are incapable of exact measurement.
  3. legally unqualified for.
Origin of incapable
1585-95; < Late Latin incapābilis. See in-3, capable
Related forms
incapability, incapableness, noun
incapably, adverb
1. Incapable, incompetent, inefficient, unable are applied to a person or thing that is lacking in ability, preparation, or power for whatever is to be done. Incapable usually means inherently lacking in ability or power: incapable of appreciating music; a bridge incapable of carrying heavy loads. Incompetent, generally used only of persons, means unfit or unqualified for a particular task: incompetent as an administrator. Inefficient means wasteful in the use of effort or power: an inefficient manager; inefficient methods. Unable usually refers to a temporary condition of inability to do some specific thing: unable to relax, to go to a concert. 2. impotent, unqualified.
1. able. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for incapable
  • They're convinced painters are incapable of reason and oblivious to real-world matters.
  • His government was also incapable of agreeing on, and then steering through parliament, the necessary measures.
  • The queen bee is incapable of feeding herself or grooming herself.
  • For years, scientists believed that damaged nerve tissue could not be repaired because neurons are incapable of regeneration.
  • West seems virtually incapable of making a bad record.
  • All by itself it renders the project incapable of finding out what the researchers say they wanted to find out.
  • In research labs, captive mothers are often incapable of raising their infants.
  • But these students are completely incapable of explaining why they are doing the research.
  • incapable of finding enough mates to ensure their survival, the dinosaurs were wiped out.
  • People are incapable of organizing groups, planning,and finding inspiration without leadership.
British Dictionary definitions for incapable


when postpositive, often foll by of. not capable (of); lacking the ability (to)
powerless or helpless, as through injury or intoxication
(postpositive) foll by of. not susceptible (to); not admitting (of): a problem incapable of solution
Derived Forms
incapability, incapableness, noun
incapably, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for incapable

1590s, from Middle French incapable and directly from Medieval Latin incapabilis, from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + capabilis (see capable). Related: Incapably; incapability.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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