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Quotes regarding ability:


  • Álomban és szerelemben nincs lehetetlenség.
    • In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.
    • János Arany, As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893) by James Wood, p. 11.
  • Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.
  • Every man who can be a first-rate something - as every man can be who is a man at all - has no right to be a fifth-rate something; for a fifth-rate something is not better than a first-rate nothing.
  • Knowing what you can not do is more important than knowing what you can do. In fact, that's good taste.
    • Lucille Ball, in Eleanor Harris, The Real Story of Lucille Ball (1954), Chapter 1.
  • In the last analysis, ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity.
  • Man is not altogether an imbecile. True, "circumstances do make the man." But they make him only in the sense and degree that he permits them to make him.
    • George D. Boardman, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 1.
  • Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability.
    • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
  • For as our modern wits behold,
    Mounted a pick-back on the old,
    Much farther off, much further he,
    Rais'd on his aged Beast, could see.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part I (1663-64), Canto II, line 971. Same idea in Macaulay Essay on Sir James Mackintosh.
  • He could raise scruples dark and nice,
    And after solve 'em in a trice:
    As if Divinity had catch'd
    The itch, on purpose to be scratch'd.
  • You are a devil at everything, and there is no kind of thing in the 'versal world but what you can turn your hand to.
  • Natural ability without education has more often attained to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.
  • The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant, when he has the Giant's shoulders to mount on.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Friend; A Series of Essays (1812), No. 15 (30 November 1809), p. 228.
    • Cf. Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676): "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants".
  • I don't even know how to use a parking meter, let alone a phone box.
    • Diana, Princess of Wales (The Times, 22 August 1994, replying to allegations that she had been making nuisance telephone calls).
  • Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.
  • One should oblige everyone to the extent of one's ability. One often needs someone smaller than oneself.
  • As we advance in life, we learn the limits of our abilities.
  • The possession of great powers no doubt carries with it a contempt for mere external show.
  • The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.
    • Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire (1776), Volume 1, Chap. 68.
  • Every person is responsible for only the good within his abilities, and for no more, and no one can tell whose sphere is the largest.
    • Mary Abigail Dodge,Country Living and Country Thinking, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
    • Edward Everett Hale, in Jeanie Ashley Bates Greenough, A Year of Beautiful Thoughts‎ (1902), p. 172. This is often misattributed to Helen Keller since the 1980s.
  • There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.
    • Elbert Hubbard, "The Crying Need", in A Message to Garcia, and Thirteen Other Things (1901), p. 163.
  • One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
    • Elbert Hubbard, A thousand & one epigrams, selected from the writings of Elbert Hubbard (1911).
  • What we do upon a great occasion will probably depend upon what we already are; what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline, under the grace of Christ or the absence of it.
    • Henry Liddon, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 1.
  • We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
  • Ability involves responsibility. Power to its last particle is duty.
    • Alexander Maclaren, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 1.
  • Our vanity desires that what we do best should be considered what is hardest for us.
  • Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.
  • A Traveler at Sparta, standing long upon one leg, said to a Lacedaemonian, "I do not believe you can do as much."
    "True," said he, "but every goose can."
    • Plutarch (attributed), Apophthegmata Laconica (a.k.a. "Sayings of the Spartans"), in Moralia.
  • The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than actual brilliancy.
  • Martyrdom... is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.
  • A man must not deny his manifest abilities, for that is to evade his obligations.
  • I think you are gonna find, when it's over... I think you're gonna find yourself one smilin' motherfucker. The thing is Butch, right now, you've got ability. But painful as it may be, ability don't last. And your days are just about over. Now that's a hard motherfuckin' fact of life. But it's a fact of life your ass is gonna hafta get realistic about. See this business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers. Motherfuckers who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don't. Besides Butch, how many fights you think you got left in you anyway? Two? Boxers don't have an 'old timer's day.' You came close, but you never made it, and if you were gonna make it, you woulda made it before now.
    • Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, character Marsellus Wallace.
  • Possunt, quia posse videntur.
    • They are able because they think they are able.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), Book V, line 231.
  • Men are often capable of greater things than they perform. They are sent into the world with bills of credit, and seldom draw to their full extent.
    • Horace Walpole, as quoted in "The Works of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford" in The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, Volume 27 (1798) edited by Ralph Griffiths, p. 187.
  • Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.
  • We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.
    • As quoted in The Story of Stevie Wonder (1976) by James Haskins, Ch. 1 : Growing Up in a World of Darkness.
  • Who does the best his circumstance allows
    Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742–1745), "Night II", line 91.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 1-2.
  • He'll find a way.
    • J. M. Barrie, Sentimental Tommy (Corp's belief in Tommy and Tommy's in himself).
  • Etiam illud adjungo, sæpius ad laudem atque virtutem naturam sine doctrina, quam sine natura valisse doctrinam.
    • I add this also, that natural ability without education has oftener raised man to glory and virtue, than education without natural ability.
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Licinio Archia, VII.
  • Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.
  • Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.
  • Every person is responsible for all the good within the scope of his abilities, and for no more, and none can tell whose sphere is the largest.
    • Gail Hamilton, Country Living and Country Thinking, Men and Women.
  • A Dwarf on a Giant's shoulder sees farther of the two.
  • C'est une grande habileté que de savoir cacher son habileté.
  • To the very last, he [Napoleon] had a kind of idea; that, namely, of la carrière ouverte aux talents—the took to him that can handle them.
  • A Traveler at Sparta, standing long upon one leg, said to a Lacedaemonian, "I do not believe you can do as much."
    "True," said he, "but every goose can."
    • Attributed to Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica (a.k.a. "Laconic Apothegms" or "Sayings of the Spartans"), Remarkable Speeches of Some Obscure Men; in Moralia.
  • Illud tamen in primis testandum est, nihil præcepta atque artes valere nisi adjuvante natura.
    • One thing, however, I must premise, that without the assistance of natural capacity, rules and precepts are of no efficacy.
    • Quintilian, Proœmium, I. 4.
  • Die Menschen gehen wie Schiesskugeln weiter, wenn sie abgeglättet sind.
    • Men, like bullets, go farthest when they are smoothest.
    • Jean Paul Richter, Titan, Zykel 26.
  • Parvus pumilio, licet in monte constiterit; colossus magnitudinem suam servabit, etiam si steterit in puteo.
    • A dwarf is small even if he stands on a mountain; a colossus keeps his height, even if he stands in a well.
    • Seneca the Elder, Epistles, 76.
  • The world is like a board with holes in it, and the square men have got into the round holes.
  • We shall generally find that the triangular person has got into the square hole, the oblong into the triangular, and a square person has squeezed himself into the round hole.
  • Read my little fable:
    He that runs may read.
    Most can raise the flowers now,
    For all have got the seed.
  • Les méchants sont toujours surpris de trouver de l'habileté dans les bons.

External links[edit]

Look up Ability in Wiktionary, the free dictionary