"I cannot speak Japanese."


June 9, 2017



The Irony when I didn't know what to put down

April 6, 2018


Okay but what's this sentence doing in the food lesson...?

June 1, 2018


Probably because you'd use the phrase a lot when speaking with Japanese waiters at restaurants. After all, if your pronunciation is really authentic when pointing to menu items, saying "This one please," they may ask you to elaborate on how you'd like it prepared, not realizing you are not fluent.

July 20, 2018


If true, that's terrible. You could use that excuse to put this sentence in ANY section.

December 17, 2018


Waiters are the true end boss of language learning.

June 7, 2019


Because this lesson introduces the negative form of verbs, I think.

March 31, 2019


Shouldn't it be が instead of は?

June 9, 2017


When the verb of a japanese sentence is negative, the が can be replaced by は.

June 11, 2017


While I agree with you, it seems more educational for the user of this app to learn about the use of が to mark the object when expressing potential.

April 5, 2018


you said ''can be'' ,so,is not always like that?

December 18, 2018


Is はなしません and はなせません both correct?

June 10, 2017


はなせません is I cant speak. Whereas はなしません is more like I dont speak.

June 22, 2017


Source of this?

September 12, 2017


(Here you go.)[http://jisho.org/word/%E8%A9%B1%E3%81%9B%E3%82%8B#] There are quite a few verbs that follow this pattern: Replace the final -u of the stem with -e and append -ru (I believe for ichidan verbs like 見る you just insert -e-: 見える). The result is a verb which means "becomes x-ed" or "can be x-ed" (note the passive, that's why you say 英語はなせます instead of 英語を). For example:

  • はなす (speak) - はなせる (can be spoken)
  • 見る (see) - 見える (can be seen, be/become visible)
  • しる (know) - しれる (become known)

There are exceptions (e.g. 聞く (hear) becomes 聞こえる (be heard, audible), not *聞ける) so I'm not quite sure how productive that pattern still is. But at the very least it makes it easier to identify these pairs of verbs.

September 26, 2017



June 12, 2018


Awesome answer!

October 28, 2017


thank you. You answered my question.

October 28, 2017


"I do not drink tea" is おちゃをのみません. So why here we use は instead of を?

May 2, 2018


First off, tea is おちゃ, not いちゃ.

Now onto your question - のむ (to drink) is a transitive verb (also called an "action verb"). That means it can have a direct object - the object to which you're performing the verb action (drinking, in this case). Direct objects are marked with を.

はなせる (to be able to speak) is an intransitive verb. It is not an action verb, merely a passive statement of one's ability. That means that it cannot have a direct object, and thus cannot go with the を particle.

You might be getting it confused with はなす (which is where はなします comes from), which is the transitive verb for "to speak." That is an action verb which can have a direct object and use the を particle. はなせる (which is where はなせます comes from) is a different, intransitive form of はなす though, called the "potential form." It is used to describe your ability/potential to do the base verb. These are always intransitive.

To go back to your tea drinking example, if you were saying that you cannot drink tea, rather than just that you don't drink it, it would be おちゃはのめません. Notice that since we're using のめる (intransitive potential form) instead of のむ (transitive action form), we don't use を anymore.

July 23, 2018


Duolingo accepts both 日本語を話せない & 日本語を話せません. With that being said, do you have a resource that backs up your argument that you cannot use を?

August 16, 2018


So を and が are write, but there are differences, and just to quote the passage for others:

Note: When using potential form, you have to change the particle from を (wo) to が (ga). This was what I were [sic] taught by my teacher in the beginning. However, I later found out that this is not always the case. Depending on situations, を (wo) can also be used. We were told to use が (ga) because our teacher didn't want us to be confused when we were first learning the potential form.

August 19, 2018


Yeah... nope! First, he didn't say いちゃ. Next, 話す isn't necessarily an intransative verb. You can say that someone just speaks... 彼は話すだけした。 You got a lot of that right, just not the part about not using を。

The を is replaced by は because it's saying (in his example of tea), "As for tea (in general), I don't drink it." It's the same thing in the main question: "As for Japanese, I don't speak it." The は makes it a general thing.

December 5, 2018


How to say "We cannot speak Japanese."?

April 25, 2018


私達は日本語話せません。word 達(たち) Makes word 私(わたし) into plural form

April 29, 2018


We natives just say 日本語喋れません。No need for は. Duolingo 間違った日本語教えるな

April 29, 2018


The derived subject is default (or preferable) 'I'? Otherwise I would say that "you can not speak Japanese" would be an option.

August 7, 2018


“I” would be the default implied subject if there is no other to be inferred from context. Given the right context I guess “you” is technically possible, though I can’t really think of a situation where I would inform somebody that they can’t speak Japanese – in Japanese! But “he” or “she” for example are easily possible if we’re talking about some other person in context.

August 7, 2018


If you're doing some sort of dramatic production, you could very well inform someone of their inability to speak Japanese, especially if the audience understands that the characters are actually speaking some other language that is merely rendered into Japanese for their convenience. (Just like how the characters in Lord of the Rings don't actually speak English.)

August 14, 2018


The way this sentence is constructed feels like it should translate as "Japanese (the language) can't speak". Isn't は supposed to be the subject marker? I realize such a sentence is a bit ridiculous, but it does have a clear meaning on its own, to me.

Does はなせ require a direct object, and thus we have to contextually understand that 日本語 is the direct object even though the particle marks it otherwise?

September 14, 2018


は does not mark the subject but the topic, the main thing that the sentence (and potentially following ones as well) are talking about. The topic can be identical to the subject (in which case there is no further marking on it) but it doesn’t have to. This is where the が particle comes into play: It marks a subject which is not the topic.

はなせる is derived from the verb はなす “to speak”. This form talks about whether or not the verb can be done – and it is almost always used intransitively (i.e. meaning it only takes a subject but no object). If it helps, you can はなせる as having passive element: “can be spoken”. So the construction 日本語ははなせません can be roughly imitated in English as “Japanese cannot be spoken [by me].”

September 14, 2018


That's informative, thank you.

If this form of the verb is intransitive, then how do you say, for example, "Tanaka can't speak Japanese"? My inclination would be to say 田中さんは日本語ははなせません, but that seems to be nonsense, since it claims two different things are the topic of the sentence. Maybe instead it should be 田中さんが日本語ははなせません? That's super counterintuitive to me, but seems to track based on what I've understood of your explanation.

September 15, 2018


田中さんは(topic)日本語が(subject)はなせません。 “As for Mr/Ms Tanaka, Japanese cannot be spoken.” :)

September 15, 2018


...Huh. So not okay to think of it as "As for Japanese, Mr. Tanaka can't speak (it)"?

So if I want to say "I can't speak Japanese" then Japanese is the topic because I'm not bothering to say わたし, as it's implied. But if I want to say "Mr. Tanaka can't speak Japanese" then Mr. Tanaka is the topic, purely because I have to specify context, while Japanese is still the subject of the verb?

What if, say, someone was looking for a translator for various languages and I wanted to translate this:

"Regarding Japanese: I can't speak it. John can't speak it. Mr. Tanaka can speak it."

To my English-speaking brain, these sentences seem to demand a direct object, whether the verb is passive or not. Would one still even use はなせる for such a sentence? Or would I just have to restructure the statement entirely to something that fits Japanese grammar?

September 15, 2018


Good question. My instinct would tell me that this would require double topics: 1) Japanese since it’s the overspanning topic of conversation, and 2) John and Mr Tanaka since you’re making a contrast. So maybe:


But I think it’s best if a native speaker could weigh in on the question :)

October 3, 2018


Why would the particle between the object being acted upon (in this case 日本語) and the verb (はなせ) not be を? The を marks the object to be acted upon, yeah?

October 3, 2018


Please have a quick scan if your question was answered before asking :) はなせる is a derived version of the verb はなす “to speak” which expresses possibility: “can speak”. However, this verb form includes a passive meaning, meaning it’s literally more along the lines of “can be spoken”. Therefore, the language is actually the subject of はなせる not the object.

October 3, 2018


There's another way of saying this, which would 話すことが出来る/出来ます (can speak/am able to speak). You could use a few different particles (specifically で which marks that it is 'by means of' Japanese that you can speak), but for this specific question, I asked my Japanese friend (今、日本で住んでいる) and he told me that it would actually be を. 日本語を話せる/話せます。In this case, you are speaking the language. Japanese (the language) is a noun which is being acted upon, so you would actually use を in this sentence.

November 4, 2018


I put "日本語を話しません" and it counted it incorrectly, what did I do wrong? thanks for any answers :3

December 15, 2018


ません is the plain form "Do not speak", you need the potential form 話ません "Cannot speak"

December 18, 2018


@PMAntonio it's わたし with 'wa' not 'ha', also we say, 日本語をはなせません。

January 27, 2019


Where is the missing g looking symbol?

March 13, 2019


I'm not sure what you mean, can you be more specific?

March 13, 2019


I think he meant "no" or "の"

April 4, 2019


I learnt it as: (Language) ははなせません wa hanasemasen

Is that not correct?

April 9, 2019


That is correct.
The answer to this question is 日本語は話せません (kanji) - にほんごははなせません (hiragana) - nihongo wa hanasemasen
(japanese language) (cannot speak)

April 9, 2019


Would the full sentence be [私は日本語は話せません]? Can there be multiple topic markers (は) in one sentence?

April 11, 2019


Shouldnt it be wo, not wa?

April 18, 2019


Can someone tell me how 話せ is written in Hiragana and explain when to use it?

May 7, 2019


はなせ. Although in this case 話せ is not a complete word, just the stem of the verb 話せる(はなせる) “to be able to speak”, itself a derived form of 話す(はなす) “to speak”.

This form is sometimes called the “potential” because it basically takes a verb “to do x” and turns it into a new verb with the meaning “can be x-ed”. So 話す “to speak” becomes 話せる “can be spoken”. Confer this excellent description for details.

Note particularly that the potential form always includes an inherent passive: “to speak” strictly speaking becomes “can be spoken”, not “can speak”. So the object of the original verb becomes the subject of the potential (though it’s often made the topic with は). This is why you say 日本語話せる (literally: As for Japanese, it can be spoken), not *日本語話せる.

May 7, 2019


Alright, どうもありがとう! It helped me very much

May 7, 2019


This doesn't give me the right characters!

May 8, 2019


Wait when would i use がand はfor this

May 23, 2019


Is 語, spoken "hana... ", here on-yomi or kun-yomi?

June 24, 2019


語 is “go” as in 日本語; you probably meant 話. That’s kun'yomi. The on'yomi is “wa” (as in denwa 電話 “telephone” for example).

June 24, 2019


I hate whem they put the n by itself. Why chop up the word (masen) throws me off everytime.

July 9, 2019
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