Correction and suggestions about 会 and 可以

  • 1525

Duolingo includes “will” in the word hints for 可以, and this is very misleading. See:

可以 usually means “be allowed to (may, have the chance/opportunity), be able to, be capable of, be worth”. How come it means “will”? Maybe it is flexible translation for “have the chance to …”.

会 usually means “be possible/likely to (will, have the possibility), be able to, be capable of, be skilled at, understand”. It never means “be allowed to”.

I suggest removing “can” from the hints for both words, and add the more specific ones I mentioned here.


可以 (kě yǐ → ké yǐ):

  • CN: 我 可以 看 一下 吗 wǒ ké.yǐ kàn yí.xià ma
  • EN: May / Can I have a look?
  • CN: 我 可以 看到 他 wǒ ké.yǐ kàn.dào tā
  • EN: I can / am able to see him.
  • CN: 这 电影 可以 看看 zhè diàn.yǐng ké.yǐ kàn.kan
  • EN: This film is worth seeing.

会 (huì):

  • CN: 他 会 成功 吗 tā huì chéng.gōng ma
  • EN: Will he succeed? (uncertainty)
  • CN: 谁 都 会 犯错 shéi dōu huì fàn.cuò
  • EN: Everyone (could / would / is likely to) makes mistakes.
  • CN: 我 会 做菜 wǒ huì zuò.cài
  • EN: I know how to cook. I can / am able to cook. (or) I will cook.
  • CN: 我 会 做 三 盘 菜 wǒ huì zuò sān pán cài
  • EN: I will make three dishes.
  • CN: 我 很 会 做菜 wó hěn huì zuò.cài
  • EN: I am good at cooking.
  • CN: 你们 会 跳舞 吗 nǐ.men huì tiào.wǔ ma
  • EN: Do you know how to dance? Are you skilled at dancing? (or) Will you dance?
  • CN: 他 会 读 这个 字 tā huì dú zhè.gè zì
  • EN: He knows how to read this word. (or) He will read this word.
  • CN: 大家 都 会 中文 dà.jiā dōu huì zhōng.wén
  • EN: Everybody understands Chinese.

Which word should we use for “be able to …”?

  • Use 可以 for capabilities (not necessarily a skill).
  • Use 会 for skills (not necessarily skilled) or know-how.

Welcome to ask for more examples.

December 29, 2017



December 30, 2017
  • 1525

Just did a small update: To say “be able to”, we use 可以 for capabilities, and 会 for skills and know-how.

December 30, 2017

I would like to see them improve the hover-over hints across the board. This is not the only example of problems with these hints...I've made probably dozens of reports of wrong or missing hover-over hints.

I have yet to see any evidence that any of the people are reviewing or acting on these reports. I also created this thread:

I've basically stopped using the Chinese course for the time being. It seems like it was launched hastily and then abandoned. Besides accepting alternate translations, I see no signs or evidence that the course is actively being maintained or improved. The mispronounciations or missing pronounciations of characters in matching exercises have gone un-fixed since I reported them, and none of the hover-over hints I reported have ever been fixed.

December 30, 2017
  • 1525

Yeah, Duolingo is in a strange state… But comparing this course with the reverse course (bad) and the Vietnamese course (so so but still worth it), I think it may be still worth going through this course at least once. Better take your own dictionary and make use of

December 30, 2017

The Chinese course has not yet been released, it's clearly marked as being in "beta", which is the usual term in software development for the stage where a group of users look for as many mistakes as possible and report them and the team tries to fix them all. Once that's done the "beta" label is removed and then it is considered "released". This usually comes with official announcements, publicity, and a little fanfare.

I definitely agree some things are taking quite a while to fix. I wonder if they are understaffed or if much of this work is doing by unpaid contributors of some kind??

February 5, 2018

Is there any chance you could add the pinyin to your examples?

December 31, 2017
  • 1525

No problem. Added now.

January 1, 2018

How would you characterize the difference between a capability and a skill? Should one be "talent" perhaps?

February 5, 2018
  • 1525

With 可以, the capability is not necessarily a skill.

A talent can be considered a skill, or capability that cannot be learned. So it depends.

February 5, 2018
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