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  5. "英語ははなせますか?"


Translation:Can you speak English?

June 5, 2017



Easy way to remember the order is to think of Samuel L Jackson. "English MF, do you speak it?!"


So we do have a topic-marker in English, after all :)


what would be...ahem... the Japanese equivalent of "English MF, (can you speak it)" ? Do the Japanese call people out like that?




Or something like that.


The first is "wa" and the second is "ha"


Yeah, any explanation? anyone?


The first は is pronounced wa because it is the topic particle, while the second は is pronounced ha because it is the start of the verb 話せます (hanasemasu).


Why not が instead of は?


Because you're trying to stress the question of do they speak english not if someone does.

Saw in another thread but basically は is used to stress the part before it and が is used to stress the part behind it.

So if you were saying for example 'professor tanaka speaks english' (but in japanes obviously) to a group of people you would use は to shift the subject to tanaka so it is clear youre talking about him but you would use が if tanaka was already the subject of the conversation to stress the fact he speaks english

Please correct me if i got that the wrong way around.


I think how it works is 1. Using が is just asking if you can speak that specific language while は is asking if you can speak the language with the knowledge that the person is multilingual.

Either that or

  1. が is for statements and は is for questions. Not quite sure which explanation it is but hopefully it helps


If you read the grammer information for the lesson, it says that the difference is complicated but [が] is frequently used in statements and [は] is frequently used in statements


The first one is the は particle, showing the subject of the sentence, which is pronounced as わ. The second is part of はなせます, meaning roughly "to speak," which is pronounced the usual way.


はなせます means can speak not to speak. You are talking about 話します はなします


Thank you! I was confused as to why it was せ and not し.


"Wa", the topic-marking particle, is spelled with the hiragana for "ha".


The first is "wa" because it's a particle and the second is the usual "ha" because it's part of the word "hanasemasu(ka)"


The particle "wa" is written like は, but you must say wa, because, you use it like a particle, and "ha" is used in a word for example: (Ha) はる (Haru, spring) (Wa) 私はカタ (watashi wa kata, I'm kata) Sorry if my English isn't very good, but i hope you can understand me ;)


Why isn't the 'が' particle used in this case? Or could it be used as well?

[deactivated user]

    Think of it, in this case, like they're speaking about English, so English is the subject of discussion ("As for English, can you speak it?" would be a literal translation)

    Using が is still acceptable, but it slightly changes the meaning of what is being said, as the subject of discussion would be different, and English would just be a thing you're mentioning. I hope that makes sense


    Thanks a lot


    In your version it's like pointing at someone and asking if HE can speak English (emphasis on the person)


    Thanks you, thinking in emphasis helps.

    HE speaks english, but not her vs he speaks ENGLISH, but not french


    It seems that 「はなせ」 is the potential form of 「はなす」 rather than the polite form 「はなします」 or continuative form 「はなして」, so the English translation should be "can" rather than "do", ですね?


    You're mostly right, but I feel like I should clarify that 「はなせ」 is actually the imperative form, meaning the command "Speak", and the potential form is 「はなせる」, with the polite potential form being 「はなせます」. Also, 「はなして」 is simply called te-form, though I like to think of it as the request form, and the (present) continuative form is 「はなしている」.

    All of this also has the caveat that you are talking about the word「話す」meaning "to speak". The conjugated forms of 「離す」 "to separate" and 「放す」"to release" are pronounced identically, but obviously have different meanings :v


    I dont understand all these conjugations yet, but i sense this will become more relevant as i learn more. Thanks!


    You're welcome! Don't worry about it too much, but personally, I think learning about Japanese verbs and verb conjugations goes a long way to improving your overall Japanese comprehension, much more than spending the same amount of time memorizing vocab words would.


    can you or could you?


    "Can you" is correct. If you think about the purpose of the question, it should make sense.

    "Can you" = are you able to/do you have the potential to. It's present tense, so you can use the present potential form 「はなせます」

    "Could you" can be used to mean either (1) were you able to, or (2) a request. For (1), you can use the past potential form 「はなせました」 and for (2), you can use the request form 「はなして」 (with ください for politeness).


    so here the speaker is asking his friend to speak japanese not asking wheather he is able to speak japanse?


    Exactly the opposite actually f(^_^;

    The sentence in this exercise uses the verb はなせます, which is the polite potential form as I mentioned in my comment. That means this sentence talks about someone's potential to speak Japanese; in other words, whether or not they are able speak Japanese.


    Eigo wa hanase masu ka?


    For that specific translation, はなせますか is asking if you "can speak", as in if you are capable, or possess the ability of doing so.

    If it instead was 英語がはなしますか、then it would be "Do you speak English?"

    They're very similar in any case.


    Hmm, I would argue that the English sentence "Do you speak English" also implies ability, since one does not speak English as a hobby as one might "collect stamps".

    Also, I don't think 話します(はなします)takes the particle が in this case, because it implies English is doing the speaking. You would have to use で which is a particle for indicating (among many other things) by what means something is done. So, 「(私は)英語で話します」 means "(As for me,) using English, I'll speak" or more naturally "I'll speak in English."


    I speak English can mean two things. One is "I normally speak English" as in everyday standard practice. One is "I have the ability to speak English."


    Shouldnt it be はなしますか ?


    I thought it should be はなせましか Anyone enlighten us please?


    The difference between はなます and はなます has already been discussed in many other comments on this page.

    はなせましか is simply an incorrect conjugation. My guess is you either mistyped はなせますか or misheard はなせました, which is the past potential form of the verb, meaning "I was able to speak".


    I translated it as "Do you speak English?", and the answer was marked correct. But woukd it have accepted "Does s/he speak English?"


    Yes, any person, we, they, you (plur), or even I.


    I tried with "I" (Can I speak English?), but it said it was wrong. Why is that?


    Technically it is correct, but the reason it may not have been marked as correct was because of the 「ますか?」which most times means it's one person asking another. When asking oneself it would probably have 自分 or one of the 私 variants in front, though since the person wasn't specified by あなた or a variant, you could technically translate this sentance with "I"


    Thanks a lot for clarifying Soy_Jaguar! :D


    I just wanted to further clarify that, while @Soy_Jaguar was right in saying it is correct to translate this sentence using "I", the reason they gave is not very accurate.

    The reason it is marked wrong is likely to be an oversight by the course developers who haven't yet fixed the (many) issues in this course. Furthermore, 「ますか?」does nothing to indicate that it is one person asking another; 自分 or 私-variants are not necessary to imply oneself as the subject of a polite question, which is what 「ますか?」 actually indicates, since social and other grammatical context can do it.


    When the woman reads out the sentence I don"t hear the はは in her speech. Why is that?


    The first 'ha' follows the kanji for "English" (language specifically I think?), and it is instead pronounced "wa" when it is used as a particle. The second 'ha' is pronounced as the first part of the following word, i.e. "hanasemasu". (I can't work out how to write hiragana on my phibe keyboard sorry)


    Yes, 英語 is specifically the English language, since the kanji 語 means "language", "word" or "speech".


    Why aren't they using the kanji for hanasu?


    Good question. I think it'd be really useful for them to teach kanji, but I can understand that, to someone with zero Japanese, having to learn so many kanji can be overwhelming. My theory is that 話 looks too similar to 語, so they decided to try to avoid that confusion (and got the "wa" vs "ha" confusion instead).


    Fair point, yet we've already encountered the "hanashi" kanji as part of the word "denwa" (telephone)...


    Already? I don't think 電話 has appeared in any lessons up to this point.


    The correct translation shouldnt be : "Can you speak English ?", since the question use the form はなせ ? Or even "Could you speak English ?" since the polite form "ます" is used ?


    As Keith and I have mentioned in earlier comments, "can you speak" and "do you speak" both mean the same thing in English, i.e. "are you able to speak", but in Japanese, you need to use the potential form 話せる or the polite potential form 話せます.

    The problem with using "could you speak" is that "could" is used for showing politeness when making a request. For example:

    ・Can/could I use my phone here? (Requesting permission)

    ・Can/could I have that book? (Requesting an object)

    ・Can/could you turn on the light? (Requesting an action)

    "Could you speak" falls under the last category, and doesn't ask about ability.

    Alternatively, "could" is understood to be the past tense of "can", so by asking "could you speak", it sounds like "did you have the ability to speak" which sounds quite strange in English, and would require the past potential form 話せた/話せました.


    Could be 英語がはなせますか?


    Yes, but it changes the nuance of the question. If I understand it correctly, 英語は話せますか is asking whether or not YOU are able to speak English, while 英語が話せますか is asking whether you are able to speak ENGLISH.

    To me, the が version sounds like something you would say out of surprise, to confirm that someone can in fact speak English, whereas the は version sounds like you're not sure if someone can speak English or not. That may not be entirely accurate though, since I'm not a native Japanese speaker.


    Politeness aside can i use desu instead of masu here?


    I think you cannot because "desu" is not used with verbs. Verbs take "masu". Here the verb is "はなせ" (to speak).


    Shouldn't it be masenka, not masuka?


    Masenka is the negative form so it would instead be "do you NOT speak ...?"


    Not quite. You're right that -ません is the negative form, but interestingly -ませんか is actually an invitational phrase. For example, 「カラオケ(karaoke)に行き(iki ="to go")ませんか」 means "Won't you go to karaoke with me?" (Disclaimer: this is a rather seedy way to ask someone to karaoke. Don't try this line unless you know what you're doing)

    Using it on the potential form though, doesn't really make sense. "Won't you have the ability to speak English with me?" :/


    Masenka is a really polite way to ask someone for something. It makes it easyier for the person answering to deny.


    I just want to know ... why this sentence use 'は' and not 'を'? ex. : 日本語を話せますか?

    and whats the difference between '日本語を話せいいですか' ?


    話せる is an ability of speaking. Abilities do not follow を. They are used with が.

    は is used to replace が for emphasizing. In this case, it is a question. It is more natural to use は for stressing the question. One can say 英語 is chosen as the topic of the question.

    日本語を話せいいですか does not make sense. I presume you are trying to say 日本語を話して(も)いいですか which means "May I speak Japanese?" It is not talking about the ability to speak, but it is asking for the permission to speak.


    When I was living in Japan, I was told by Japanese people it's more normal to say 'eigo GA hanase masu ka?'

    Just throwing it out there.


    Merely depending on whether you want to put 英語 as an emphasis or not. Without context I cannot say which one is better - using は or が.


    So does using は or が put emphasis on English?


    I believe が puts it on English as the thing being spoken, whereas は puts it on the question of ability.


    Why English has it's own kanji, while Spanish and another language are only written in katakana?


    There is one for spanish but not commonly used: 西語(せいご) 西 is short for 西班牙(スペイン)


    By the way for those interested in countries written in kanji...

    • France 仏蘭西(フランス) - French フランス語(仏語 ふつご)
    • Germany 独逸(ドイツ) - German ドイツ語(独語 どくご)
    • Spain 西班牙(スペイン) - Spanish スペイン語(西語 せいご)
    • The United States 亜米利加(アメリカ) - American English アメリカ英語(米語 べいご)
    • The United Kingdom 英吉利(イギリス) - English イギリス語(英語 えいご)
    • Russia 露西亜(ロシア) - Russian ロシア語(露語 ろご)
    • The Netherlands 和蘭(オランダ) - Dutch オランダ語(蘭語 らんご)

    Full list is here


    This is really interesting! From what I can tell, these kanji are assigned to each country largely based on phonetics, rather than any actual meaning, similar to how Chinese does it I think.

    One exception I found was 新西蘭 for New Zealand. The first kanji, 新, means "new" but it's typically pronounced shin, whereas the second and third mean "west" and "orchid", respectively, and can be pronounced sei and ran.


    why in this sentece they use wa, and in the positive sentence they use ga? eigo ga hasemasu


    Originally this sentence is 英語が話せますか where が represents the ability (英語). Now this 英語 is brought up as a topic of the question. は is used instead of が for this purpose.

    Positive sentences can use は instead of が for this purpose as well, especially when you give an answer of a question brought up with a topic.

    • A: 英語は話せますか。
    • B: はい、英語は話せます。 or いいえ、英語は話せません。

    • A: トイレは使いますか。

    • B: はい、トイレは使います。 or いいえ、トイレは使いません。


    ありがとう Its kind of hard to understand but i did it jeje thanks


    Why do they sometimes use が instead of は?


    It is like, why do people sometimes say "It's that," but other times say "That's it."

    I just copy from the question and answer available in this page...


    Shanliang 10 months ago: Why isn't the 'が' particle used in this case? Or could it be used as well?

    HyperTigerXT 10 months ago: Think of it, in this case, like they're speaking about English, so English is the subject of discussion ("As for English, can you speak it?" would be a literal translation)

    Using が is still acceptable, but it slightly changes the meaning of what is being said, as the subject of discussion would be different, and English would just be a thing you're mentioning. I hope that makes sense


    Maybe a useless question, but if 英語ははなせますか is how you say "Can you speak english?" Then how would you say "Can I speak english?" It's not the question itself I really need to know how to say, it's more about distinguishing who the subject is when asking a question (can YOU, vs. can I, vs. can THEY, etc.)


    If something cannot be inferred from the context, you write it out explictly.

    • 私は英語は話せますか。
    • 彼らは英語は話せますか。


    Can´t have two topics in one sentence, so it should be 私はえいごが話せますか


    The first は is not for topic, it marks the subject. The second は marks the topic. Two は in a sentence is completely fine.

    Believe it needs some more explanation on this one. I will type a longer version when I have some time. But in short, the basic form is ~は~が~. The noun before は is the larger subject and the noun before が is the smaller subject. If this is a question or a negative sentence, the が can be changed to a は in order to stress the question/negative sentence, keeping the first は untouched. Both nouns are subjects but the second one is now stressed/topicalized.

    Adding the only source I can find as of now: source


    Why is "do you speak English " incorrect?


    If I remember correctly, the suggested answer for this was indeed "Do you speak English" 1 year ago, but now I see that it has changed to "Can you speak English." Both should be correct. If one of these two is incorrect now, please report this to the contributors via the report flag function when you answer in practice sessions.


    I think the most confusing thing is knowing when to use "ha" or "ga" as the "particle" (as I see people calling it...) Grammar has always flown right over my head, even with English hehe... >.


    Yes I agree. It is natural for natives or people who are fluent enough to use these constructs appropriately, but most people cannot explain why it is the case.

    In liguistics we can try classifying different use cases, but ultimately it is usually due to customs and historical reasons when dealing with special cases.

    To learn a language, we can use these "grammar rules" to help us construct sentences. But to master it (or to become fluent), we must stop thinking about grammar rules and use another mindset to "naturally" speak or write it. This needs years of practice before we can do it.


    I'm confused, I thought hanasemasu meant CAN not DO.


    As far as I can tell, it does. It's tricky, though, since when we ask, say, "Do you speak French?" in English, that can reasonably be interpreted as "Can you speak French?"

    This is true in other in other languages, as well (i.e., "Parlez-vous français?" vs. "Pouvez-vous parler français?").

    I'd go so far as to say that replacing "do" with "can" mentally in English in this situation is the default, and that "Do you speak French" is rarely (if ever) interpreted as "Do you perform the physical act of speaking the French language out loud?"

    Unlike, say, "Do you run in the morning?" Which refers to the direct act over the ability to perform it (except in certain contexts, I guess :D).

    tl;dr: "do" is actually an extremely complex/flexible verb in English.


    What is purpose of the "ha" after "eigo"?


    Originally this sentence is 英語が話せますか where が represents the ability (英語). Now this 英語 is brought up as a topic of the question. は is used instead of が for this purpose.


    は is used, it just focus on the subject english, like is english something speakable (to you), when が is used , the subject is implied, (私は)英語が話せます


    When I clicked on "はは" it told me it also means "mother". Is that true?


    Yes, "mother" is pronounced haha in Japanese, which is written as はは in hiragana, but should be written in kanji as 母 if it was to mean "mother".

    In this case, it's just a coincidence. The first は is pronounced wa and is the topic particle, while the second は is pronounced ha and is the start of the verb 話せます (hanasemasu).


    why は can be pronounce as ha and wa? what about わ?


    わ is always pronounced wa.

    は is pronounced ha, unless it is being used as a particle (the topic particle) which is when it is pronounced wa. As for why this is... it essentially boils down to "because reasons".

    Languages change, writing systems change, pronunciations change. In olden times, the sound wa used to be written as は, simce there was no わ character. For some reason or another, わ and を and a few other "w" characters (which have since fallen out of use) were introduced and は became pronounced as ha. Again for some reason, the particle は didn't make that shift, like the particles を and へ.


    Ok, why is 英語 taking a は here? shouldn't it be "英語をはなせますか"? Shouldn't 'you' be the topic here?


    Topic works like this: the speaker chooses the topic of interest and the speaker describes further information on the chosen topic. "You" is the subject but not necessary the topic.

    はなせます is in potential form and do not take a direct object. The normal particle to indicate the ability is が. 英語がはなせます。


    Isn't "Do you speak English?" あなたは英語はなせますか。 How do we know the person is "you" in this sentence?


    That is also a valid alternative translation, but no more or less "correct" than the sentence Duo gave us. In Japanese, the subject or topic (often the person in these simple sentences) is commonly omitted when it is obvious through the context what the subject/topic is.




    よく頑張りましたね。(I've got the English translation at the bottom ;))





    • 「~と~の違うは」× 「違う」は動詞ですよね?「は」は必ず動詞に直接付ける事はダメです。「違う」を名詞にするのは「違」が正しいです。
    • 「何か?」× 実は「何か」は「何なのか分からないけど、とりあえず存在してる物」という意味です。正しいのは「何ですか?(丁寧)」か「何?」です。
    • 「三年の学生」△ 悪くはないですが、不自然な言い方です。もっと自然な言い方は「三年生」です。「学生」という意味もう含まれていますからです。
    • 「~です、だから~」△ こっちも不自然です。まず、「です」と「だ」はまったく同じ意味です。なので、「~ですから~」か「~だから~」でもいいです。もしくは、丁寧さを気になるのなら「~ですので~」か「~です。なので~」か「~なので~」も使えます。
    • 「見ましたない」× 文法的に間違っています。正しい形は「~したことがない」です。この表現は「~」の動作の経験はないという意味です。(「ない」を「ある」に変えると、肯定な表現になります)
    • 「なぜは?」× 「は」は要りません。使うと、「なぜ」が主語になるからです。でも、知りない事は主語のはずですよね?


    Good effort with the Japanese!

    First of all, here's the answer to your question.

    「話ます」is the polite form of the plain form 「話す」, which is also called the "ます -form". This form has three main uses: when you describe a general state of affairs (irrespective of time), when you describe habits that are ongoing now, and when you describe actions/plans for the future.

    On the other hand, 「話ます」 is the polite form of the potential form of 「話す」. This form says that doing the action which the plain form represents is a possibility, the same meaning as 「~できます」.

    Next, there were several mistakes in your comment, so I'll correct them.

    • 「~と~の違うは」× 「違う」is a verb, right? When it comes to 「は」, it is never attached directly to a verb. To make 「違う」 a noun, 「違」 is the correct form.
    • 「何か?」× Actually,「何か」means "a thing that exists, though I don't know exactly what it is" (i.e. "something"). The correct phrase is 「何ですか?(polite)」or「何?」
    • 「三年の学生」△ It's not incorrect per se, but that's not a natural way of speaking. The more natural way to say it is 「三年生」because the meaning of "student" is already included.
    • 「~です、だから~」△ This one's also unnatural. Firstly, 「です」and「だ」mean exactly the same thing. Because of this, it's fine to just use 「~ですから~」or「~だから~」. Alternatively, if you're concerned about politeness, you could also use 「~ですので~」or「~です。なので~」or「~なので~」.
    • 「見ましたない」× This is grammatically incorrect. The correct structure is「~したことがない」. This phrase means that you have no experience of doing the action indicated by 「~」. (If you swap 「ない」with 「ある」, it becomes the positive version)
    • 「なぜは?」× 「は」is unnecessary. That's because, if you use it, "why" becomes the topic. But the unknown thing you are asking about should be, the topic, right?

    Keep it up!


    Is there a difference between "は" and"が" in terms of indicating the subject?


    は does not necessarily mark the subject. が does it usually. The main use of は is either marks the topic or the contrasting phrase. It supercedes が in case the subject is also the topic. In this case 英語 is the small subject (Bigger subject is omitted "あなた") and が is superceded by は as a contrast marker (English vs other languages).


    Can the "wa" topic marker be omitted here? As in "eigo hanasemasuka?"

    Or is that just broken Japanese?


    Is the pronominal subject "you" implicit? How can you know if you're asking to just one person or more people or if you're asking "can she/they speak japanese?" Cause l see no pronominal subject here damn! (I havent learnt the personal pronouns yet and my only educational source is duolingo)


    Yes, the subject is implicit because that's how they do it in Japanese. A lot of things in Japanese rely heavily on C O N T E X T


    Why is "ga" omitted here? Should it not be used to denote speaking English as the topic of the question?


    The particle is omitted because the entire あなたが / わたしが / 田中さんが is omitted. Japanese loves to omit subjects that can be understood from context. Depending on the context, the subject can be anyone (you, they, Mr. Tanaka, my uncle, etc.).


    So would that mean that 英語ははなせますmeans i speek english? Because this whole thing about adding か changing it into a quention so if you remove it is it just the statement?


    英語は話せます indeed means "I can speak English", as 話せる is the potential form of 話す.


    I thought "Eigo wa hanasemasu ka" was the translation for "DO you speak English" , and can you speak english would be "Eigo ga Dekimasu ka" はなせます = speak できます = can


    No. できる is the potential form of する and as such can only be used for する. Perhaps you've mistaken it with ~ことができる, an alternative way of forming potentials:

    英語は話せます。/ 英語を話すことができます。


    wouldn't 英語が話せますか?be an answer as well?


    where is you in this sentence? and when we use mas?? what the meaning of mas?


    The "you" of this sentence is あなたが but it is not written or spoken here and is only understood from context. And, depending on the context, it could also mean "can he/she/they speak English?"

    There is no "mas" in Japanese. You mean ~ます with unvoiced "u". The ~ます form is the polite form of Japanese verbs that means simple present tense, and is also frequently used as future tense (again, depending on context, since there is no grammatical future tense in Japanese).


    Can this also be translated as “Do you speak English?”


    Yes. Explained above.


    Why does は sometimes sound like wa sometimes, and ha at other times?


    Because it depends whether は is used as a grammar element. What I mean is, for example, you pronounce it like wa when you use it as a topic marker, in negation verb (dewa arimasen)..


    I've translated it on google as well, and I wonder: does 英語ははなしますか? Works?


    It works for "Do you speak English" but the meaning is different. Reason well discussed above.


    My answer is right but duolingo said it's wrong:((


    I know that I’m not an administrator, but I would like to help. Can you specify what was your answer so the admins can maybe help or clarify?


    Why not eigo "ga"(instead of "wa") hanase masuka?


    Many interrogative sentences in Japanese use は as a particle. You could literally translate it like: “As for English language, can you speak?”, and you would see that the speaker wants to know whether the person they are talking to can or can’t speak English. The は particle simply marks WHAT the speaker wants to talk about!


    the forbidden question


    Wtf i wrote "You can speak english?" and it got rejected, for what reason?


    Because it is an entirely different sentence. “Can you speak English?” means the speaker wants to know whether or not the person knows how to speak English. “You can speak English?” expresses surprise, as if the person told something to the speaker and now the speaker seeks confirmation.


    i dident put a capital leter in english


    I don't understand: I wrote exactly the same as the correct answer and it is rejected.


    From the audio I listen hanashi, but the hiragana uses the "se" symbol. Is it correct?


    The female voice above says se correctly. Did you hear the male or female voice?

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