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  5. "老师能说很多种语言。"


Translation:The teacher can speak many languages.

November 21, 2017



我觉得”能“说听起来一点奇怪。 能=本能= can; innate ability 会= can; learned ability 可以= can; permission


Oops, the usage of these modal verbs are actually much more complex than it looks.

能 = can, in regard to ability, status and permission (if there is any).


  1. will, a wish or a future event.

  2. know how, in regard to the mental ability of a living thing. For animals, physical abilities like running, flying can also use this in a figurative way.

  3. (derivation from 2) be good at.

One should note that both item 1 and 2 may apply when the subject to be a living being. So there is a possibility for ambiguity. But it's not hard to judge when a context is given. If the sentence describes an abstract behavior, it means "know how". If it is an event, it means "will".


  1. Usage of "can":

孔雀能飞吗/孔雀会飞吗?Can a peacock fly?

孔雀能活多少年?How many years can a peacock live? (It's not "learnable".)

这只孔雀会飞吗?Can this peacock fly? (Or is it too young?)

这只孔雀能飞吗?Can this peacock fly? (Or is it too young, hurt or caged?)

我能说汉语/我会说汉语。I can speak Chinese.

这架飞机能飞吗?Can this plane fly? (A plane is not a living thing)

我会做饭,但现在不能做。I know how to cook, but I can't. (I don't have time or kitchen wares.)

我能用这台机器,但不会用。I can use this machine, but I don't know how to use it.

  1. Context, abstract behavior:

我能做饭。I can cook. (I learned it, or I have the tool, or I'm not tired.)

我会做饭。I know how to cook. (I learned it.)

  1. Context, event:

我明天能来。I can come tomorrow. (It's sunny tomorrow.)

我明天会来。I will come tomorrow. (I promise.)


Does that mean that in the given sentence 能 is incorrect? Because speaking languages is learned behaviour, isn't it?


The given sentence is correct. It fits both the meaning of 能 and the 2nd meaning of 会 listed above.

See the 我能说汉语/我会说汉语 example.


Many is better English than 'a lot of'


It is the given translation now.

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