To know versus to be able/can

Meyer Wolfsheim

Senior Member
English
Hello everyone,

I'm curious what is the difference between knowing how to do something and being able to do it. If someone has the ability to perform a task would that not imply that that someone must know how to go about to perform the task?

"He knows how to swim" would be equal to "He can swim"

And even with stressing the "know" one can put equal stress on "can" to suggest that he is rather good at swimming.

Of course I assume that it must be possible for someone to know how to do something but not be able to? But it must be impossible for someone to be able to do something and not know how?

He knows how to fly. But he cannot anymore because of his vision.

When could the opposite ever be true?
 
  • watercanyon

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    There could be cases where someone has the ability to perform a task, but not have the formal knowledge about the task. This is especially true of tasks that can involve natural abilities or instincts.

    The artist knows how to balance colors and create depth of field, yet has no formal training.

    Or

    Mothers have a knack for checking on their children when they are getting into something they should not. How do they know???
     

    watercanyon

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    I have an instinct about testing software. The programmers can fix 6 bugs. I will test the one that didn't get fixed first. Why? The word coincidence comes into play here. We make choices every day - some are based on knowledge, some on our 'gut reactions' to situations. How much does knowledge or experience or just plain luck come into play? That is more of a philosophical discussion than a linguistic one.
     

    Meyer Wolfsheim

    Senior Member
    English
    Well to stay on the linguistic side, I merely ask the question because with some connotation differences, it appears that the two verbs can approach the same value with regards to actual meaning.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well to stay on the linguistic side, I merely ask the question because with some connotation differences, it appears that the two verbs can approach the same value with regards to actual meaning.
    Of course they can.

    But there are also differences - as highlighted in this thread.

    I'm not sure what more you need, Meyer W?
     

    mancunienne girl

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Well, everyone, at least MOST people, have the innate ability to run. Everyone knows how to run, but not everyone CAN run fast.
    You could not substitute "know how to" in the last clause. We are talking about subtle differences here, but nevertheless, these differences do exist.
    As Loob says, not sure what more you need?
     
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