What Can ChatGPT Do? | Suggestions & Examples

ChatGPT, the popular generative AI writing tool, is constantly in the news these days. You might be wondering what all the hype is about and what exactly it can (and can’t) do.

The novelty of ChatGPT, and the reason it’s big news in the AI world and beyond, is its ability to generate unique, fluent, and largely accurate responses to pretty much any question or prompt.

Rather than being designed for one narrow task, ChatGPT is a generalist: it excels at a wide variety of activities, from coding to writing. Below, we explore 10 surprising things ChatGPT can do – and a few that it struggles with (so far).

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Explain complex topics in a personalised way

Some of ChatGPT’s key capabilities are its proficiency in discussing just about any topic and its ability to adjust its responses to different writing styles. This makes it a powerful tool for learning about complex topics in an accessible way.

Try asking it a question (e.g., “What is …?”) or instructing it to summarise or explain a topic (e.g., “Please explain x to me”). If the answer isn’t what you wanted, you can always follow up (e.g., by asking for more detail on a specific point or asking for a more accessible summary).

  • What is spacetime?
  • Spacetime is a concept that combines the three dimensions of space—length, width, and height—with the dimension of time into a unified framework. It is a fundamental concept in physics, particularly in the theory of general relativity, which was developed by Albert Einstein.According to general relativity, spacetime is a four-dimensional continuum in which events take place. Instead of treating space and time as separate entities, Einstein proposed that they are intertwined, and the geometry of spacetime is affected by the presence of mass and energy. Massive objects like stars and planets curve spacetime, causing other objects to move along curved paths.

    In the framework of general relativity, the motion of objects in spacetime is described by geodesics, which are the paths that objects naturally follow in curved spacetime. These paths are influenced by the distribution of matter and energy, as well as the geometry of the surrounding spacetime.

    Spacetime also incorporates the idea that the speed of light is a fundamental constant, limiting the maximum speed at which information or causal influence can propagate through the universe. This has important implications for our understanding of cause and effect, as well as the behavior of objects moving at high speeds.

    Overall, spacetime provides a unified description of the fabric of the universe, encompassing both space and time, and is a key concept in modern physics for understanding the nature of gravity and the dynamics of the cosmos.

  • Can you use simpler language and condense the explanation to one paragraph?
  • Certainly! Spacetime is the combination of three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a single framework. It’s a concept in physics, particularly in Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that spacetime is a four-dimensional “fabric” where events happen. Massive objects like stars bend this fabric, causing other objects to move along curved paths. Spacetime also includes the idea that the speed of light is a maximum speed limit, affecting how information and cause and effect work. In simple terms, spacetime is a way to describe how space and time are connected, how they can be curved, and how things move within this unified framework.
Note
Bear in mind that ChatGPT isn’t always trustworthy: it can provide inaccurate information and won’t reliably tell you when it doesn’t know the answer to your question. It will usually provide correct answers, but it can’t be relied on in all cases.

Because of this, you should not cite ChatGPT as a source of factual information and should check any claims you’re unsure about against a credible source.

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Write different kinds of texts

ChatGPT also excels at writing different kinds of texts for you quickly. For example, you could ask it to draft an email or cover letter for you.

Note that unless you give very specific instructions, you’ll likely want to edit the ChatGPT response to make sure it lines up with what you want and matches your voice. For instance, in the example below, we didn’t specifically tell it our schedule, so we’d probably have to edit the second paragraph to ensure it’s accurate.

  • Draft a friendly email to my academic supervisor, Paul Silas, telling him that I can’t make it to our scheduled meeting tomorrow due to illness. Ask him about alternative meeting times next week. Keep it short and to the point.
  • Subject: Unable to Attend Meeting Tomorrow – Requesting Alternative Meeting TimesDear Professor Silas,

    I hope this email finds you well. I regret to inform you that I will be unable to attend our scheduled meeting tomorrow due to illness. I apologize for any inconvenience caused.

    Could we please explore the possibility of rescheduling our meeting for next week? I am available on Monday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, or on Wednesday from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Alternatively, if these times do not work for you, please let me know your availability, and I will do my best to accommodate it.

    Thank you for your understanding, and I appreciate your flexibility. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards, [Your Name]

Note
ChatGPT can also be asked to write other kinds of texts like essays and articles. We generally don’t recommend this: in an academic or publishing context, there are often rules against using AI-generated content (see our overview of university policies on AI writing).

However, there are other ways to use ChatGPT in your studies to help with (rather than completely taking over) the research and writing process.

Help you practise something

Need to rehearse or practise for something, like a job interview? You can always ask ChatGPT to play a specific role and practise an interaction with you. Give it enough context for the best results.

  • I need to practice for a job interview. You play the role of the interviewer. You’re hiring for a Teaching Assistant position at a high school. Ask me questions (one question at a time) about my experience, skills, and interest in the position. Follow up on what I say, and let me know if you think my answer wasn’t ideal.
  • Sure, I’d be happy to help you practice for your job interview as the interviewer. Let’s start with the first question:Question 1: Can you tell me about your previous experience working as a Teaching Assistant or in any educational role?
  • Sure. I don’t have a huge amount of experience, but I did a two-month internship at an elementary school as a teaching assistant.
  • That’s great to hear that you have some experience as a teaching assistant through your internship at an elementary school. Could you please elaborate on your specific responsibilities and tasks during that internship? Also, feel free to mention any notable achievements or challenges you encountered during that time.

Test your knowledge of a topic

You can also ask ChatGPT to test your knowledge of a topic, which can be a good way of practising for exams or just testing yourself.

  • Please test my knowledge of English verb tenses. Ask me one question at a time, and tell me if my answer is correct, explaining where I went wrong if not.
  • Of course! I’d be happy to test your knowledge of English verb tenses. Let’s begin:Question 1: What is the past tense of the verb “go”?
  • went
  • Correct! The past tense of the verb “go” is “went.” Well done! Let’s move on to the next question.Question 2: What is the present perfect tense of the verb “eat”?

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Brainstorm ideas

Sometimes, you just need some suggestions to get started. ChatGPT can give you ideas for how to approach just about any project. Try asking it for tips or bouncing your own ideas off it.

  • I want to throw a party for my boyfriend’s birthday, but I don’t have any good ideas
  • Throwing a party for your boyfriend’s birthday is a wonderful way to celebrate and show your love. Here are some ideas to help you plan a memorable and enjoyable party:
    1. Choose a Theme: Selecting a theme can make the party more exciting and engaging. Consider your boyfriend’s interests, hobbies, or favorite movies, sports teams, or eras. Some popular themes could include a Hawaiian luau, a sports night, a retro ’80s party, or a casino night.
    2. Guest List: Create a guest list based on your boyfriend’s preferences. Include his close friends, family members, and some of your mutual friends. Ensure the guests will have a good time and get along well.
    3. […]

Write and review code

ChatGPT tends to be just as proficient at writing computer code as it is at writing human language. Try playing around with its coding abilities, asking it to review or complete code you’ve worked on or write an entirely original program.

  • Please write a program in Python that calculates the sum of all numbers from 1 to N, where N is entered by the user.
  • Here is one way to write a program in Python to calculate the sum of all numbers from 1 to N:n = int(input(“Enter a positive integer: “))
    sum = 0
    for i in range(1, n+1):
    sum += i
    print(“The sum of all numbers from 1 to”, n, “is”, sum)

    In this program, the user is prompted to enter a positive integer n. The variable sum is initialized to 0 and then we use a for loop to iterate from 1 to n (inclusive), adding each number to the sum. Finally, the result is printed to the screen.

    ChatGPT Python code

Translate and converse in multiple languages

ChatGPT can interact with users in many different languages. It’s likely to perform best in the languages covered most comprehensively in its training data, but you can try it out in any language you like. This opens up a lot of possibilities for using ChatGPT for language learning.

For example, you can ask ChatGPT to translate text, teach you vocabulary, or even switch between languages in a single chat.

  • Please translate this Spanish text into Dutch for me: He vivido en Ámsterdam durante dos años.
  • Ik heb twee jaar lang in Amsterdam gewoond.
  • Dankjewel
  • Graag gedaan! Als je nog meer hulp nodig hebt, sta ik voor je klaar.
  • Lo siento, realmente no hablo holandés. ¿Podemos hablar español?
  • ¡Por supuesto! Podemos continuar en español. ¿En qué más puedo ayudarte?

Write in the style of …

Since its training data includes such a large volume of text, ChatGPT can also be asked to imitate the style of specific writers. This can be fun to play around with, although we’ve found that the resulting parodies can be quite literal and don’t necessarily do a great job of imitating the author’s voice.

  • Write two paragraphs about generative AI in the style of Jane Austen.
  • In the realm of artificial intelligence, there exists a wondrous creation known as generative AI, a marvel of ingenuity that brings forth words and ideas with an uncanny resemblance to human craftsmanship. This novel invention, resembling the creative faculties of a virtuoso scribe, can conjure eloquent prose and intricate narratives, captivating the minds of those fortunate enough to witness its artistry. Like a masterful storyteller, generative AI weaves tales of love and longing, of wit and whimsy, all while preserving the genteel manners and refined language that befit a Jane Austen novel.With the aid of generative AI, the cherished traditions of literary endeavors are rejuvenated, as the ethereal whispers of muses are replaced by the computational genius of algorithms. No longer must the quill quiver upon the page, nor the inkwell be replenished; for at the fingertips of discerning writers, the apparatus of generative AI stands ready, eager to deliver its offerings. Through this transformative marriage of innovation and artistry, a new era of literature dawns, where the delicate nuances of Austen’s prose are mirrored, and the spirits of characters long past are revived, ever enchanting readers with tales that are both familiar and refreshingly novel.

Write you a poem

ChatGPT can respond not only in prose but also in verse. Ask it to write you a poem on any topic. The results are not exactly Shakespeare, but it’s fun to play around with generating different kinds of poem on whatever topic comes to mind.

  • Write a limerick about Scribbr.
  • There once was a student named Jim,
    Whose essays were a little too grim.
    He found Scribbr online,
    Where editors shine,
    Now his papers are polished and prim!

Tell jokes

Need a laugh? Ask ChatGPT to tell you a joke.

  • Tell me a joke
  • Sure, here’s a classic one for you:Why don’t scientists trust atoms?

    Because they make up everything!

  • Booooo
  • I apologize if that joke didn’t meet your expectations. Let me try another one:Why don’t skeletons fight each other?

    They don’t have the guts!

What ChatGPT can’t do (yet)

While its abilities are impressive, you should also be aware of ChatGPT’s limitations. In its current form, ChatGPT:

  • Sometimes makes things up: The developers acknowledge that ChatGPT’s answers shouldn’t be relied on for complete accuracy. It tends to “hallucinate“, giving confident – but wrong – answers rather than admitting when it doesn’t know something.
  • Can’t accurately cite its sources: ChatGPT’s responses include information from a wide variety of sources included in its training data, but it usually can’t accurately cite these sources since it doesn’t really “know” where its own information comes from. This is a problem in academic writing, where failure to cite sources correctly constitutes plagiarism.
  • May reproduce biases from its training data: ChatGPT has been shown to reproduce biases (such as sexism) from its training data, since its responses essentially aim to imitate the kinds of texts it has seen in similar contexts.
  • Tends to be long-winded and overly politeBy default, the tool’s responses are often longer than they need to be and padded with redundant or repetitive language, apologies, and disclaimers.

Other interesting articles

If you want more tips on using AI tools, understanding plagiarism, and citing sources, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations, examples, and formats.

Frequently asked questions about ChatGPT

Can I program with ChatGPT?

Yes, ChatGPT is able to create code in different programming languages like Python, Java and C++.

There are several ways you can use ChatGPT in your studies, such as if programming is part of your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Can I use ChatGPT to learn languages?

Yes, there are a variety of ways to use ChatGPT for language learning, including treating it as a conversation partner, asking it for translations, and using it to generate a curriculum or practice exercises.

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT is a chatbot based on a large language model (LLM). These models are trained on huge datasets consisting of hundreds of billions of words of text, based on which the model learns to effectively predict natural responses to the prompts you enter.

ChatGPT was also refined through a process called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), which involves “rewarding” the model for providing useful answers and discouraging inappropriate answers – encouraging it to make fewer mistakes.

Essentially, ChatGPT’s answers are based on predicting the most likely responses to your inputs based on its training data, with a reward system on top of this to incentivise it to give you the most helpful answers possible. It’s a bit like an incredibly advanced version of predictive text. This is also one of ChatGPT’s limitations: because its answers are based on probabilities, they’re not always trustworthy.

What are ChatGPT prompts?

ChatGPT prompts are the textual inputs (e.g., questions, instructions) that you enter into ChatGPT to get responses.

ChatGPT predicts an appropriate response to the prompt you entered. In general, a more specific and carefully worded prompt will get you better responses.

Where does ChatGPT get its information from?

ChatGPT is an AI language model that was trained on a large body of text from a variety of sources (e.g., Wikipedia, books, news articles, scientific journals). The dataset only went up to 2021, meaning that it lacks information on more recent events.

It’s also important to understand that ChatGPT doesn’t access a database of facts to answer your questions. Instead, its responses are based on patterns that it saw in the training data.

So ChatGPT is not always trustworthy. It can usually answer general knowledge questions accurately, but it can easily give misleading answers on more specialist topics.

Another consequence of this way of generating responses is that ChatGPT usually can’t cite its sources accurately. It doesn’t really know what source it’s basing any specific claim on. It’s best to check any information you get from it against a credible source.

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Caulfield, J. (2023, July 06). What Can ChatGPT Do? | Suggestions & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/using-ai-tools/what-chatgpt-can-do/

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.

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