I've looked them up in many dictionaries, it seems the two words have the same meaning, right? I don't know when we use each of them properly.


5 Answers 5


If you are accountable for something, you are in a position that requires you to report to or answer to someone for your actions and decisions.

If you are responsible for something, you may be the one to whom things are reported.

I think with accountability there is someone or some agency overseeing your actions; someone to whom you report.

With responsibility, you are the one in charge. "The buck stops here." One dictionary says when you are responsible, you have the ability to act without guidance or superior authority.

  • ..but If I say "I'm responsible for developing my project team". This doesn't mean I have the ability to act without superior authority. I'm given an authority to develop my project team and then I will have to report to my boss. Really?
    – Thuan
    Apr 12, 2012 at 15:16
  • I think you could say that you are responsible for overseeing the work of those reporting to you, but you are accountable to your boss.
    – JLG
    Apr 12, 2012 at 15:18
  • I may understand what you've explained JLG. I have many tasks to do (my responsibility) and once I've done one of them, I have to report to my boss (my accountability), right? It sounds we are comparing "DOING" and "REPORTING after DOING completely". Right?
    – Thuan
    Apr 12, 2012 at 15:22
  • Right, to answer your first question. However, with regard to your second question, I don't know if I would equate responsibility with "doing." And with accountability, you have to report whether you actually did the job completely (or even at all). You might have to explain why you didn't do the work.
    – JLG
    Apr 12, 2012 at 15:58

One simple google search gives the answer. If you are not satisfied, there are many more answers.

In a nutshell (from Merriam-Webster dictionary):

"responsible" implies holding a specific office, duty, or trust;

"accountable" suggests imminence of retribution for unfilled trust or violated obligation.

So, as you can see:

You TAKE responsibility and you are HELD accountable.

  • 1
    both many leads to the same link
    – Em1
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:51
  • 1
    Thank Frank Presencia Fandos, I've searched in Google, however, I actually don't fully understand differences between them.
    – Thuan
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:56
  • @Em1 sorry, my fault Apr 12, 2012 at 15:05

In my opinion, accountability refers to the quality which a person or body has when they are reliable in their behaviour, capable of taking justifiable actions or decisions; it also indicates that a certain (positive) behaviour or attitude are likely to be kept over time, so that you can trust the person or body.

Responsibility on the other hand refers to the fact of being in charge with something, of having control over someone, or having a duty to deal with something. The person who is responsible for such situations may be accountable, but it is not a necessary feature of the person himself.


Here's what I learned as an officer in the Navy - responsibility for a task can be delegated, while accountability cannot. As you may have read in other places on the inter-webs, responsibility may be shared among several people, but there can only be one person who is ultimately accountable ('held accountable') for a given task.

  • 1
    Hi, Scott, and welcome to EL&U. Thanks for your valuable input. While you do have plenty of authority in this area, EL&U appreciates links for answers, to avoid solely opinion-based answers. :) Jan 7, 2014 at 23:10

Responsibility is that you are in charge of doing a certain job. But you may not be blame for any mistake if there is. However, if you are responsible and at the same time accountable it means that you can be commended for doing something good but can be blame if you did otherwise.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.