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Japanese Lesson: Able to do something/Potential form

Here is another Japanese grammar lesson. If you have any suggestions for future lessons or need to correct me on anything (I am not a native, I have just been simple learning for a long time), please say so down in the comments.

In English, saying that you are able to do something is easy. You simply put "can" before the main verb, and it's similar in other languages as well where they have their own individual word or verb to express that they can do something. In Japanese however, there is a verb tense you must learn. It's very simple, though.

How to conjugate

To conjugate ru verbs, you replace the ending る with られる

ex. 食べられる (can eat), 走られる- (can run)

You can also simply add れる, though it's less formal and isn't something that you would use when talking to someone higher up than you.

To conjugate u verbs, change the last u sound to the hiragana equivalent of an e sound and add る

ex. 聞く(to hear)ー>聞ける (can hear), 飲む(to drink)ー>飲める (can drink)

There are exception verbs, though.

する (to do)ー>できる (to be able to do) くる(to come)ー>こられる (to be able to come)

Something you might see or hear often are words like 見える and 聞こえる, which may seem incorrect because of the conjugation rules. However, these mean "to be visible" and "to be audible". 「聞こえますか」 is a phrase meaning "can you hear me?", and is not the same as "can you hear?"

Since potential forms don't have direct objects, you will not use the particle を. You would instead use は or が or も depending on the context

Example sentences



Can you speak Japanese?



Because he's a baby, he can't drink coffee.



I can't go to school because I am sick.



My mother can sing well



I couldn't write hiragana or katakana until last year.

I hope some found this helpful. If there are any questions about it, you can write it down in the comments and I'll try to answer as best as I can.


List of Other Lessons

January 7, 2018



Great lesson, but 走る, like 帰る or 入る, isn't a -ru verb, it's a normal -u verb. There are a few other verbs like this, but the easy way to tell is that if the -i or -e sound is part of the kanji, it's an -u verb, but if it's written in hiragana, it's probably a -ru verb. (食べる has be written in hiragana, so it's -ru, but the shi in 走る is part of the kanji, so it's -u).

So the potential form of 走る would be 走れる. Hope this helps!


走られる is correct.


走られる is indeed correct, but the potential form of 走る is 走れる, as TheEeveeLord stated before. 走られる is the passive form.


Very good choice of topic. If it's ok, I want to suggest the passive form, causative form, and honorific form to cover in future lessons.


"Since potential forms don't have direct objects, you will not use the particle を" is not correct from what I've observed/read elsewhere. Can a native speaker confirm? Even some Duo exercises insist on using を with, for instance, 書ける

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