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An easy-to-understand explanation of Japanese potential forms!

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A woman studying Japanese Potential Form

How should I express the "Potential Form" in Japanese, which corresponds to the English words "can" and "able to"? In this article, we will explain the Japanese potential form in an easy-to-understand manner for foreigners.

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Let's learn "possible forms" with videos!

Japanese Potential Form rules

Please note that the rules for Japanese potential forms are slightly different from English.

In English, you can create the possible form by adding "can" or "able to" before the verb, and the verb itself does not change. On the other hand, the Japanese possible form is change the verbI express it by There are two main changes: one that changes "~ru" to "~eru" and one that changes "~u (u)" to "~eru (eru)." However, "to do" and "to come" do not fit this pattern, and have exceptional changes to "can do" and "to come" respectively.

Furthermore, the verb itself does not change;Add ``can do ~'' after the verbThere is also a way to add . Both ways of changing the verb and adding ``--koto-dekiru'' at the end basically have the same meaning.

[Rules for Japanese possible forms]

  1. Change “~ru” to “~areru”
  2. Change “u” to “eru”
  3. The only exceptions are "to do" and "to come"
  4. Add ``can do ~'' at the end

Change “~ru” to “~areru”

Verbs that end in ``ru'' such as ``eat'' and ``see'' become possible forms by changing ``ru'' to ``areru.'' Similarly, other verbs such as ``see,'' ``wear,'' and ``sleep'' become possible forms if they are ``seen,'' ``wearable,'' and ``sleep.''

EnglishBasic formPossible form
eateat (taberu)edible (taberareru)
see, look, watchsee (miru)seen (mirareru)
wear, put onwear (kiru)to be worn (kirareru)
sleepsleep (neru)be able to sleep (nerareru)

Example sentences using "~areru"

To make "We watch Mt.Fuji." into the possible form, change "see" to "can see" and become "We can watch Mt.Fuji." .

Similarly, to make "We eat delicious foods." into the possible form, change "eat" to "able to eat" and say, "We can eat delicious foods." ”.

Example sentenceromajiEnglish
You can see Mt. FujiFujisan ga mirareruWe can watch Mt.Fuji.
You can eat delicious foodoishii ryouri wo taberareruWe can eat delicious foods.

"Ranuki words" are also often used.

"Ra-nuki words" are possible expressions that remove the "ra" from "edible" or "seen" to become "edible" or "seen." Although ra-nuki words are not grammatically accurate, Japanese people often use them in daily life.

Change “~u” to “~er”

Verbs that end in ``u'' (when written in Roman letters, the final character becomes ``u''), such as ``speak'' and ``write,'' can be created by changing the ``u'' part to ``eru.'' It can be shaped. For example, if you want to "speak," change the "u" at the end of "hanasu" to "eru," and it becomes "hanaseru." Similarly, ``write,'' ``drink,'' and ``take'' become possible forms if they are ``written,'' ``drinkable,'' and ``taken.''

EnglishBasic formPossible form
talk, speakspeak (hanasu)able to speak (hanaseru)
writewrite (kaku)be able to write (kakeru)
drinkdrink (nomu)drinkable (nomeru)
taketake (toru)can be taken (toreru)

Example sentences using "~er"

To make "I speak Japanese." into the possible form, change "speak" to "speakable" and say "I can speak Japanese." . Similarly, ``I write Kanji.'' becomes a possible form by changing ``write'' to ``able to write'' and saying ``I can write Kanji.'' Masu.

Example sentenceromajiEnglish
i can speak japanesewatashi wa nihongo wo hanaseruI can speak Japanese.
I can write kanjiwatashi wa kanji wo kakeruI can write Kanji.

Possible forms of ``suru'' and ``kuru'' are exceptions.

Basically, all verbs can be made into possible forms using the two methods explained in the previous section, with the exception of ``do'' and ``come,'' which can be changed to ``dekiru'' and ``come,'' respectively. Masu. You can also say ``I can come'' by saying ``I can come.''

EnglishBasic formPossible form
dosurucan (dekiru)
comecome (kuru)come (korareru)

Add ``can do ~'' at the end

In addition to changing the verb, you can also make it into the possible form by adding ``kato dekiru'' to the end of the verb. When adding "Kataru", the verb does not change.

For example, if you say "eat" and "can eat", it has the same meaning as "being able to eat". Similarly, ``speak'' and ``do'' have the same meaning as ``can speak'' and ``can do'', respectively.

Tips for learning Japanese

Finally, for those of you who are working hard on learning Japanese, I would like to share some tips for learning Japanese.
There are many ways to learn Japanese efficiently, but this time we will specifically introduce methods that use audiobooks, books, dramas, and movies.

Learning method using audiobooks

  • How to chooseBeginners should choose audiobooks for learning Japanese. For intermediate and above learners, choose an audiobook with a story that interests you and have fun while learning.
  • overheardYou can train your listening skills by playing audiobooks in the background and listening to them repeatedly in your daily life.
  • listen repeatedlyListen to the parts you don't understand over and over again. This will help your ears get used to the Japanese rhythm and intonation.
  • sentence shadowingLearn pronunciation and rhythm by listening and reading out loud at the same time.
  • Recommended audiobooks:You can learn Japanese ``anytime, anywhere'' and ``efficiently'' while traveling or working.

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Learning method using books

  • How to chooseBeginners should choose picture books for children or Japanese teaching materials for beginners, and intermediate and above students should choose easy-to-read books such as light novels and essays. Manga is also recommended.
  • underlineUnderline words and phrases you don't know and look up their meanings later to understand the content of the book.
  • summaryWe also recommend summarizing what you read in your own words to deepen your understanding.
  • rereadingIf you read a book once, you can often make new discoveries and deepen your understanding by reading it again after some time has passed.
  • Recommended sites:

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Learning method using dramas and movies

  • Learning daily conversationDramas and movies are suitable for learning natural Japanese expressions and culture because they often contain scenes of everyday conversation.
  • Utilization of Japanese subtitlesWatch with Japanese subtitles on for the first time, take notes of words and expressions you don't understand, and look them up later.
  • reenactment of the sceneIt is also effective to choose your favorite scene or line and imitate it out loud. This will improve not only your listening but also your speaking skills.
  • Cultural understanding:You can learn about Japanese culture, customs, and values ​​through dramas and movies. Understanding the background of the story and the emotions of the characters will enable deeper learning.
  • Recommended drama/movie distribution services:

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There are two ways to create a Japanese potential form: by changing the verb, and by adding ``koto-dekiru'' at the end, both of which have the same meaning. There are mainly two types of rules for changing verbs, with the only exceptions being ``suru'' and ``kuru.''

If you want to learn more about Japanese, please refer to the following articles.

What is the level difference between Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1, N2, and N3?
What does “~tai” mean in Japanese? Particle? verb? Also explains how to use it

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