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  5. "日本語ははなせません。"


Translation:I cannot speak Japanese.

June 7, 2017



Not with that attitude


Who else liked this comment without fully understanding the context?


Just as a footnote for those wondering: - hanasu: to speak - hanashimasen: does not speak

  • hanaseru: can speak
  • hanasemasen: can not speak


Thanks red, i was trying to understand the 'se' vs 'shi'


So would you use the first two when referring to other people? And the 2nd two are for yourself/us?


No, you can use all four regardless of who you are referring to. The difference lies with the tense.

The first two, 話す and 話しません, are both "non-past" tense, while the second two, 話せる and 話せません, are "potential" tense. Consider the following example:

{You have been invited onto a Japanese game show, and the host instructs you to open the curtain and talk to the ferret on the other side, in Japanese, of course.}

If you respond with 話ません, you are saying "I will not speak." In other words, you can speak Japanese perfectly well, but you are (no fun and) refusing to converse with a ferret.

If you respond with 話ません, you are saying "I cannot speak." In other words, you either don't have the ability to speak Japanese, or you misunderstood and thought the host instructed you to speak in Ferret, which you also don't have the ability to speak.


Amazing example. I used this to remember until I had it down:

HanaSHImasen - SHI* no, i will not talk to a ferret in japanese

HanaSAmasen - SAdly i cannot talk to the ferret in japanese


I like this except せ stands for "se". So Hanasemasen. Hard to think of a substitute word for your second mnemonic. SEnator? Testify before Congress that you can't speak to a ferret.


this is a great way to remember that!! thank you!!


I have a question: does 話 means something related to the verb speak?


Yes, sorry, I should have been clearer. In all the examples above, 話 is pronounced はな, so 話せません is the same as はなせません.

The kanji itself means "talk" or "story", and 話す (はなす) is the verb "to speak".



I am copying below a reply from another thread:

First we need to understand there are three types of verbs. Each type conjugates in a particular way.

  • V5 verbs - 五段(ごだん), some Japanese textbook refers this as "Group I"
  • V1 verbs - 一段(いちだん), some Japanese textbook refers this as "Group II"
  • Special verbs - カ変(かへん) and サ変(さへん), some Japanese textbook refers this as "Group III"

We look at the end of the verb in dictionary form 辞書形(じしょけい) to "guess" the type of the conjugation. 辞書形(じしょけい) always ends in the "u" column.

  • 五段 - They can end in most of the rows in the "u" column: う く す つ ぬ む る ぐ ぶ
  • 一段 - They only ends in る, and the sound before the る is in "i" column or "e" column, e.g. みる, いる, ねる, たべる (common exception: 帰る(かえる)、切る(きる))
  • カ変 - one verb くる, サ変 - one verb する

Now, to form the potential form,

  • 五段 - change the end of the verb from column "u" to column "e" in the same row, and then add る, e.g. かう→かえる, よむ→よめる, あらう→あらえる
  • 一段 - remove the る at the end, add られる (or れる in oral form), e.g. たべる→たべ(ら)れる, みる→み(ら)れる, いる→いられる(don't omit ら even in oral)
  • くる→こ(ら)れる, する→できる

Don't want to confuse people here with the passive form. Read this for other conjugations. p.s. I find it easier than the French conjugation table.


a) thank you so much for all your help answering questions. (people like) you make this app system feasible. b) do these endings apply to all verbs across the board, or is it like Spanish with different endings taking different declensions? are there any further declensions for verbs, or does all 1st/2nd/3rd person + singular/plural information come from the sentence? thanks again


So, if I say "話す" I'm saying I WANT to speak, and if I say "話せる" it means that I CAN speak?


話す I speak/I will speak

話せる I can speak

話したい I want to speak


well whats "でわ ありません" on the end of things like 英語?


It's the negative form of です generally when it ends with ません it is something negative. BTW 英語でわありません means literally "not english" or "englishn't" 英語 means "english" and でわありません negates it


Oh and it is ではりません with "は" not "わ"


I like learning this phrase in different languages


Why would you learn to say that you can't speak Japanese in different languages?


I just really want the world to know that I cannot speak Japanese


When I click into the characters it's saying 'mother' instead of 'they'?


This is a strange coincidence. The first ha is actually the particle wa, indicating japanese language as the subject of the sentence. The second ha is the first hiragana in hanashimasu, meaning to speak or tell a story. The fact that they are next to eachother is a fluke. Haha does mean mother, but it's not supposed to be in this sentence. Nice catch.


I think you mean はは


1-What is mom in Japanese? 2-HaHa 1-am serious... 2-HaHa! 1-fine I didn't want to learn it anyway


Be serious! Ok, おかあさん (the formal version)


Why is the particle wa here and not ga? "Japanese" is not the subject, the implied first person is, right?


Think of it as: ,,As for Japanese, I cannot speak it.''


はis used to stress the negativeness... It is an art when choosing は or が in a sentense. It was very difficult to me at the beginning to get them right. But as going through all the readings and listening, it will naturally come out right...


In fact, "Japanese" IS the subject of this sentence, not the speaker. [watashi wa nihongo o hanashimasen desu] means "I do not speak japanese" as well, but rearranged so the topic is the speaker and not the language. The first one is more like "Japanese is not something I speak."


Wa is topic particle


Duolingo is wrong. When using potential form, particles have to use が by default, nothing related to first person.

The complete sentence would be

わたし は - 日本語 が - はなせません

Usually i, me, you, are omitted during normal conversation. Thats why


How do negatives work in japanese?


Negatives are conjugated onto the verb. A polite positive verb usually ends with -masu and a polite negative ends with -masen. Search up a conjugation chart for Japanese and practice it owo


When I got this wrong the first time, it suggested 'He doesn't speak Japanese' but 'I don't speak Japanese' is also accepted. Can this be used for any pronoun?


In the right context, any pronoun is acceptable. For example, this situation:

A: 彼は英語が話せますか。 Can he speak English?

B: ええ、話せますよ。 Yes, (that's right) he can.

A: 日本語は? What about Japanese?

B: あ、日本語は話せません。 Ah, he can't speak Japanese.


Thank you for all of your helpful (and often humorous) explanations. Have some of my spare change. (p.s. Weird thing – I tried to give you more, then the lingots kept disappearing, so I refreshed the page and you only had 2 but my account went down by 21! Haha! Good thing I'm filthy rich.)


I thought hanasu was conjugated as "hanashimasu" and negative form "hanashimasen". Why is it conjugated here as "hanaSEmasen", is hanasemasu/hanasemasen correct instead? Or is this a program error, and it should instead be hanashimasu/hanashimasen?


It's not a program error; they are all actually correct :v Let me explain:

Root verb = 話す "to speak"

Polite present tense = 話ます "to speak"

Polite negative present tense = 話ません "to not speak"

Potential tense = 話る "to be able to speak"

Polite potential tense = 話ます "to be able to speak"

Polite negative potential tense = 話ません "to not be able to speak"


Thank you for all of your helpful (and often humorous) explanations. Have some of my money.


Why didn't they use 'wo' if japanese is not the subject ?


Japanese is the subject of this sentence.


well I am not a native-English, but shouldn't this answer: I can't speak in Japanese, be a valid one?


Wow... even as a native English speaker, this is a very very subtle difference (possibly one I'm imagining).

My first thought was "yes, it should be valid too." However, by inserting "in", it breaks up the phrase "to speak language". The assumption of this phrase is that you can comprehend the language, that you can understand it. When you say "I can't speak in Japanese", there's almost an implied "but I can read/write/understand it".

In other words, "I can't speak Japanese" implies zero Japanese ability, whereas "I can't speak in Japanese" implies poor speaking ability.

But like I said, I could just be thinking about it too much f(^_^;


What's the difference between using wa here when cannot speak and using ga when can speak?


Is the 'I' implied? How would this sentence differ from "he does not speak Japanese"? Shouldn't わたし be in here somewhere?


Since the subject is omitted, you're naturally expected to presume that you're referring to yourself.


why do you use 'は' here instead of 'を'? If 'Japanese' is the topic of the conversation, why do we use the object marker (を) in, say, "I do not drink green tea": おちやを食べます.


We use は here in order to emphasize "Japanese" in a negative sentence. は is called the "topic" particle, so it's not surprise that we use it to indicate that something is the topic of conversation.

This emphasis is not strictly necessary though, but it is very common practice; that is, it sounds much more natural in most cases to use は in a negative sentence. In "I do not drink green tea" (which should be おちのみません), it's acceptable to use を because "green tea" is directly acted upon by the verb. The topic of conversation in this case, would remain as the speaker or the person who was previously the topic. For example:

  • A: ジョンさんはおちゃが好き【すき】ですか? ("Does John like green tea?")
  • B: 全然【ぜんぜん】、おちゃをのみません。("Not at all, he doesn't drink green tea.")

Also, since the verb is はなません (i.e. in potential form), we wouldn't use the direct object marker を anyway; we should use が. This is because the verb is talking about ability, not an actual action. If you said "I can't speak Japanese (はなせません)", there isn't any Japanese not being spoken, you're just saying you don't have the ability to. If you said "I won't speak Japanese (はなません)", there is a concrete amount of Japanese not being spoken, so you can use を.


I speak Japanese. Nihongo wo hanashimasu. 日本語が話します。 I don't speak Japanese. Nihongo wa hanasemasen. 日本語は話せません。

Why is it が in the first case, but は in the second?


The first sentence should be を.

  1. 日本語ます
  2. 日本語ません
  3. 日本語ます
  4. 日本語ません

Sentence 1 is the base sentence. I will not speak Japanese. 話します is transitive, and 日本語 is the direct object, so を.

Sentence 3 is the potential form variant of 1. When in potential form, the verb 話せます is no longer transitive, so が is used to represent the target of the ability.

Sentence 2 and 4 are the negative variants of 1 and 3. When in negative, は is used to stress the negative mood, and は supecedes both が and を in each sentence.

Of course, は can be used to bring up a topic for other reasons as well, so sentence 1 and 3 can use は to replacw が and を also.


Dont they conjugate verbs in japanese? I mean, where is the subkect "I" or "me" in this sentence ?


Technically in this sentence the subject is the japanese language. The speaker has only an implied relationship that is conditional. This same sentence could mean he/she/my grandma's potato doesnt speak japanese, depending on the conversational context.


Watashi no haha no haha no potato wa?


Yes, if it's your maternal grandmother's potato. We'd also accept watashi no chichi no haha no potato wa.


The verbs are seldom conjugated depending on the subject. The verb stays intact, and the subject is implied; if you were talking about someone else and you said this sentence, you would be saying "[he/she] cannot speak Japanese." But in this case, without context, you are talking about yourself.


Why is this not "Mother cannot speak Japanese"


Just don't get confused by the tooltip. The sentence is like this: 日本語 は 話(はな)せません. Nothing to do with mother.


For clarity, はは means "mother", but it should be written as 母. It's just a coincidence a verb starting with は came directly after the particle は


i said "I dont speak japanese". Is that right?


That's the answer I gave and got correct, but this thread makes me wonder about the differences of "はなしません" and "はなせません"...


It's correct, but that's because "I don't speak Japanese" and "I can't speak Japanese" are functionally identical in English, whereas 話しません and 話せません have distinctly different meanings in Japanese.

To illustrate the difference better, let's take a look at "I don't cook" and "I can't cook" instead.

The former, "I don't cook" (料理しません), uses the negative "non-past" tense which is the same tense as 話しません. It implies you do have the ability to cook, but you choose not to, for whatever reason.

The latter, "I can't cook" (料理できません), uses the negative "potential" tense which is the same tense as 話せません (bad example because "to cook" is an irregular verb, but believe me, they're the same tense). It implies that you simply do not have the ability to cook, maybe because you haven't learned how to, or you're just really bad at it.


So one could say "日本語ははなせません" to mean "I don't speak Japanese" with the underlying meaning being "...because I can't speak it"?


Well, yes... kind of. In English, the underlying meaning behind "I don't speak Japanese" is "...because I can't", but in Japanese, the use of はなません makes "I can't speak Japanese" the overt meaning.

To English speakers, we understand that "I don't" usually means "because I can't" when it comes to languages which is why it is an acceptable translation, but Japanese maintains the distinction.

I know I'm being pedantic, but consider the following example: "I can speak Japanese, but I don't speak it at work"



Not functionally identical in English !!

I don't... is more like a refusal. is ambiguous whether you can or not (though might connote more like can but won't, or do not).

"I cannot" ("I can't") meants that I'm not capable.
"I can't" is also commonly used to mean "I don't have Permission to..(do something)", Technically "I may not.." is the proper term to use in the case of permission, but usually "I can't" is used instead.


When I typed in the translation as I didn’t know it, I tapped it and it said mother so I typed that, it was wrong so I scanned the comments, but why does it say 'he' where I put mother? I don't quite understand, where can you see that it was talking about a he?


"He doesn't speak Japanese" is a possible translation of this sentence in the right context. You'll notice that in the Japanese sentence, there isn't a pronoun marked as the subject, so it means that we have to guess from the context (which Duo doesn't provide for us).

If you were talking to someone about your brother, and they said "Can he speak Japanese", in English, you could reply with "He doesn't" and people would understand. It's the same concept in Japanese; you reply "doesn't speak" and it's obvious you're still talking about your brother, so you don't need to mention him.

My guess is that Duo's auto correct thinks "he" was the closest acceptable pronoun where you put "mother". Then again, "Mother doesn't speak Japanese" could be an acceptable translation too, in the right context.


Why is it は and not が?


I think 'Japanese' would have to be doing something to use 'ga'.


But wouldn't the full sentence be "私は日本語がはなせませんです"?


If you check other comments in this long forum, it has been answered before.

は is for the stressing the negative at the end. The full sentence is わたし 日本語 話せません

The first は is the topic marker and the second は is used for negative stressing in place of the normal


Just wondering this, if "deshita" was added to the end of this, what change would that make? I remember hearing it at some point and was wondering if it changed the meaning or if it was just a politeness thing


I wrote "they cannot speak Japanese." and still got it right. so I'm wondering, what exactly indicates whether the sentence is referring to "they" or "I." sorry if this seems like a stupid question I'm working on really understanding the sentence structure.


Nothing in this sentence indicates "they" or "I". As is frequently the case in Japanese, the information about the subject is implied though context. We don't have any context in these exercises, so Duo accepts (or should accept) a number of different answers because there is more than one correct translation depending on the context.


If the sentence is "I cannot speak Japanese", even though the "I" is implied wouldn't it still be the subject? Why is it using は instead of が?


"I" is the subject. "Japanese" is the passive subject in the potential form construct. The literal translation is "I have the trait that Japanese can be spoken." So both I and Japanese are subjects (although modern grammar simplifies this as Japanese being the indirect object of ability or wish).

は is used to bring up the negative contrast where it implies I cannot speak Japanese but can speak something else.


I thought it was "日本語はではりません". What does "日本語はではりません" mean compared to this then? Please respond if you can give me an answer.


日本語はではりません is simply incorrect Japanese.

I suspect you might have meant 日本語ではありません, but you've made two mistakes in your sentence. Firstly, the verb should be ではりません is the negative form of です, so my sentence means "It is not Japanese" (日本語 = "Japanese", ではありません = "is not"). Secondly, if that is the verb you meant, the topic particle は doesn't go in between it and the subject. 日本語 ではありません is just ungrammatical.


In the previous lessons they said to use を for the stuff that acts as target of the verb, in this case "speak". How come は is used here? An example would be お茶を飲みます (I drink tea), but for 日本語は話します。(i speak Japanese), は is used? Can someone clarify it for me? Thanks~ :)


Well, I'm not the best but, in this case, you use は because you're marking the topic of the sentence.

So it's like: "As for Japanese language, I cannot speak it".

See? The topic of the sentence is 日本語, and using は you point it out.


when I must say it with は ?and が ?


In no case you must. It is optional and depends on the purpose of the sentence (whether the speaker wants to make Japanese a topic or not).


Why would I learn this sentence if the aim is to speak japanese?


I guess you will have to say this if you are in front of a Japanese now. who cannot speak English.


I think the idea is to show you how to make negative verbs in Japanese.


Previous chapters you made things negative by adding ではありません (iirc) and was used in examples like nihonjin ga dewaarimasen for I am not Japanese. So is it that dewaari is meaning self and my self isn't Japanese? so the masen is the negative? Making hanase speak and masen is the negative again?


You missed quite a number of things.

  1. ではありません is the negative for nouns and na-adjectives (one of the two types of adjectives in Japanese). The construct is (noun/na-adj)ではありません. There is no が in between.

  2. To form the negative of a verb we use (verb in the renyou form)ません. Renyou form is the same form you should have learnt along with verb+ます. Essentially you just change ます to ません.

  3. In this question it is talking about ability, so potential form is used. i.e. (verb in potential form)ません. To change a verb to potential form, I have a detailed explanation above in this thread.


i have a question, in 日本語ははなせません。is it pronounced: ni hon go HA HA na se ma se n。or ni hon go WA HA se ma se n。? Its diffrent by the audible example and the symbols, just listen to the はは part because its confusing me.


Duplicate question. Search for -Tara- in this page for answer


then how are you speaking japanese right now


This is true (for now)


why would i have to learn to say this is im learning it right now... why not give us a "i cannot speak fluent japanese" or something


I don't want to sound rude, but precisely because at this point in the course, you are (likely) quite far from being able to speak Japanese, let alone fluently.

"Fluent Japanese" is actually a noun phrase (流暢な日本語 - な-adjective + noun), which is a relatively complicated thing to learn after you've just learned the basic SOV sentence structure (which is also very different and possibly unintuitive compared to English's SVO structure). Alternatively, another good way to translate that sentence into Japanese would be to use "fluent" as an adverb, e.g. "I cannot speak Japanese fluently", which, again, is a relatively complicated concept for what has been covered up to now.


I cannot speak Japanese.

In Japanese.

The irony.....


Why does it sound like she is saying "日本語 HA 話せません"? Like she is actually pronouncing は as if it weren't a particle.


I checked the audio above and it sounds correct.

Nihongo WA HAnase masen

Did you mix up the first WA with the second HA?


Anyone else having trouble understanding why they say the answer is wrong even tho you have selected the exact sentence? Only other way to select it was using ませ + ん blocks instead of the ません block.


Yes it seems to be a reason outbreak of this bug. Please send a bug report preferably with screenshot via the Duolingo webpage.


So "su" is used at the end when you can so something and "sen" is used when you can't?



Polite verbs end with ます when it's an affirmative sentence and ません when it's a negative sentence. In plain verbs, they end in "u" for affirmatives and ない for negatives.

In order to say whether you can or can't, you have to combine that rule with the potential form of a verb. In this case, the affirmative potential forms, i.e. "can speak", are はなせます (polite) and はなせ (plain), and the negative potential forms, i.e. "can't speak", are はなせません (polite) and はなせない (plain).


Thanks Duo, good to know that my skills sucks x"D

[deactivated user]

    i put "i cannot speak no japanese" D:


    I wish I could use "My answer should be accepted" on audio questions, because I entered 日本語は話せません, which is just as valid as 日本語ははなせません, but I got marked wrong because only the latter version was accepted. But in a WRITTEN version of this, both versions are accepted. There is no possible way to know which version to use in an audio exercise, so both the hiragana and kanji for "hana" should be valid answers.


    I have a question: Is there any complementary material to these lessons that I am missing? For in the material that I have study, I have not come across [Hanaseru] or [Hanasemasen]. Therefore, it becomes a guessing game. I may know how the basic hiragana characters sounds, but I cannot know a word if I never came across it.


    For grammar there is a course note page you can access by clicking on the light blub button before starting the lesson at the course content page. Inside each question, every word of the question can be checked with the meaning when clicking on the word itself.


    Even pure Japanese, it can speak Japanese correctly neither.


    Doesn’t は indicate that the word before it is the subject? Why wouldn’t it be “Japanese can not speak”?


    No, は indicates the word before is a topic only. The topic can be a subject, an object or others. However Japanese is indeed a subject, but you have to understand there can be two subjects in a Japanese sentence. The full sentence is 私は日本語が話せません which means "I have a trait that Japanese cannot be spoken." Note that "I" is the bigger subject and "Japanese" is the smaller subject.


    Does anyone know why it accepts both "cannot" and "don't" as correct answers here?


    If you say I don't speak Japanese, it can mean either "I do not have the ability to speak Japanese" or "I do not speak Japanese regularly."

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