Just ran across this user story form:

"As a <user role>, I can <activity> so that <business value>"

(source-1 and source-2)

which to me seems different than what I believe to be the "standard" one:

"As a <role>, I want <goal/desire>, so that <benefit>"

(source-1 and source-2)

(Meaning that I'd believe "I can" would be in the "benefit/value" statement, not the "goal" statement. For example, "So that I can [...].")

Are both right, or is one flawed, and why?

  • 2
    I would say Goal/desire is slightly preferred: the product owner defines 'what', the whole team contributes to 'how'. Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 6:26
  • +1 @Kris Van Bael: Agree, there is no 'how' in a user story, only who, what, and why.
    – blunders
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 6:32
  • 1
    Agree, "can" makes sense in the benefit/value and not the goal. The user story describes a goal the user can't achieve (except for occasional case of can-but-too-complexly), otherwise there would be no need to implement anything.
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 8:08
  • I'd say that the second one is more generic, where as the firt one is limited to systems developpment and difining a precise user interaction. To me, the first one also looks more like a specification than the description of a need.
    – Oli
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 8:41
  • @JanHudec While short, this would be a great answer.
    – maple_shaft
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


Logically a user story is describing something that the user currently can't do, otherwise there would be no need to implement anything. So wording "I can ..." does not make sense in the goal/action part. Most logical wording is "I want ...". I can imagine wording "I (will) do ..." (more like use case wording).

For action vs. goal/desire, a goal can easily be do action. So the "goal" template is more generic, though I can imagine it often will end up describing an action anyway.

  • +1 @Jan Hudec: Great, thanks! So, just to add to your answer, while: "As a pilot, I can turn on auto-pilot, so the plane is able to fly itself" is a story in the present-tense, the point of a user story is to clearly express the intent of what needs to be done to produce the benefit desired. Using the phrase "I can" to start the "goal statement" leads to stating what is needed already exist, which would mean there was no point in writing the story in the first place.
    – blunders
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 14:26

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