I feel like it could mean either "what you are capable of doing," or "what you are willing to do."

Do one of those better represent the meaning of this phrase or are they both right?

  • 2
    Could you add some context for clarity?
    – jimreed
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 15:57
  • Some context would help, Abe. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 15:57

2 Answers 2


"As you are able" simply refers to ability without detailing what kind of ability. It applies equally to physical ability, mental/emotional ability, temporal/geographical ability, etc. In most cases the meaning is based on context, but sometimes it is left up to the listener to determine for themselves how to receive the instruction.

It must also be noted that in this context "as" can be replaced with "if."

Often, in church, you hear "Please kneel, as you are able." In this context it usually refers to a physical ability to be able to bend your knees or be able to lift yourself back up into your seat, which can be daunting tasks to the elderly. It applies equally well to a parent holding an infant or sleeping child, even though they have the physical strength (ability) to kneel.

You may hear the following from someone who is giving you advice on what to do while vacationing in Hawaii. "You should spend a day picking pineapples if (as) you are able." Here the context suggests that you probably have the physical ability to pick pineapples, but the constraint on ability is more likely due to time or which island you will be staying on.


It could depend on the context.

I am going to work on cleaning out my garage as I am able.

In that example, it means "when I have available time".

  • 1
    However, in "Please stand as you are able", it means "if you have the reasonable ability to do so" (not in a wheelchair, injured, arthritic, etc)
    – Zoot
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 16:11

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