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"I can speak English and Japanese."


March 1, 2018



why was が used? why do we need to emphasize 英語と日本語 over はなせます?


Because you want people to know that you speak those two languages. They will pay more attention to the languages than to the fact that you speak them.


I thought が was the subject marker. By that logic, wouldn't 「英語と日本語がはなせます」 mean "English and Japanese can speak"? Or am I wrong?


Yeah, cause its the short form. The full sentence is: わたし は 英語 と 日本語 が はなせます。


You are wrong. が is the object marker, and は is the subject marker. Here in this sentence, the subject is わたし,and it is omitted,which happens often when pointing to "myself" - the speaker - in Japanese language. The full sentence should be: わたしは 英語と日語が はなせます。☺


My friend, you're wrong... は is the TOPIC MARKER and が is the SUBJECT MARKER. を is the OBJECT MARKER. In the sentence, the speaker is the topic (because they're talking about their ability to speak those languages) and the languages are the subject. Though you did get the omitted pronoun part correct, a review of the three basic particles might do some good.


Also, I assume it was a typo, but for everyone else, it would be (私は)英語-(えいご)-と日本語-(にほんご)-が話-(はな)-せます。


Actually both を and が are used for object markers. Sometimes が is used over は for the subject to stress a certain point. Here you have to use が as はなす is used in the potential form はなせます. There are a few other verbs like いる,ある,はじめる... that use が as an object particle.


pretty sure が is a subjective character letting the listener know that the subject being discussed is the languages? Is this correct?


Not quite. To mark the subject or topic of a sentence you use は. が as a particle is an object marker like を; they're often interchangeable (though for some words you only can use が). が is used here to amplify the meaning that you speak those two languages instead of the fact that you can speak them. The subject (わたし / I) is omitted here as it should be obvious from context who is meant by it.


どこでそれを学びましたか? 時々、「が」は客体を示しますが、ほぼいつも主語を示しますね。

What do you mean by "amplify the meaning that you speak those two languages instead of the fact that you can speak them?" Do you mean that you DO speak them as opposed to the fact that you CAN speak them? That's a slight bit confusing...


Think of it as different questions leading to that sentence as the answer: 1) Do you speak English and Japanese? -> The focus is on your ability to speak those languages. 2) What languages do you speak? -> Here you emphasize that it's English and Japanese which you can speak.

Though I also read in a comment somewhere here that with はなせます you have to use が instead of を because it's an intransitive verb or the potential form or something like that. I'm not sure about that myself though.

With verbs like ある, いる, はじめる... が is most definitely used as an object marker. ((私は)友だちがいます. - "friend" is an accusative object here) Otherwise I think it can be quite fluent if you use が or は for the subject. In this sentence here は would be the topic marker as well as the indicator for the subject (わたし) even though it's omitted here.


what is the difference between は and が?


This is probably one of the most confusing things to learners of Japanese and you'll see this asked in a lot of question comments on this site. There's lots of different ways to explain it, but I'll just give you the one that helped me the most:

は is used to stress what comes after it. When you see something written as "X は ...", you can read it in your head as, "As for X, ..."

が, in contrast, is used to stress what comes before it. It's like you're answering an unspoken question and the answer is what was just before the が.

For example, consider the two sentences

  1. 田中は先生です。

  2. 田中が先生です。

These are both grammatically correct sentences and they both mean "Tanaka is a teacher," but the situations that you'd use them in are different.

Suppose that someone asked you what Tanaka does for a living. We're already clearly talking about Tanaka, so we don't really need to stress the "Tanaka" part of the sentence, but we do want to stress the "teacher" part, since that's the answer to the question. So in this case, you'd use #1 - 田中は先生sです。("As for Tanaka, he's a teacher.")

Now suppose instead that you, me, Tanaka, and a bunch of other people were all in a room and you asked me if anyone here was a teacher. I know we're already talking about teachers, so I want to stress that the answer to your question is that Tanaka is a teacher out of all these people. So in this case I'd use #2 - 田中が先生です。("Tanaka is a teacher.")

There are also just some verbs that always use が instead of は that you'll encounter and just have to memorize which ones they are. For example, the verbs あります and います ("to exist") always use が instead of は. That isn't the case here with はなせます, but I figure I'll mention for future reference.


Thanks for posting this explanation! It helped out a lot, I think I understand what the difference is now. Have 2 lingots, to push that number to 3 digits!


I put it in backwards, I didn't know it mattered this much. Going to get this wrong a lot.


It's important for Duolingo to know you understand which Japanese word corresponds to which English one. Unless it's a set phrase with reverse ordering in the two languages, you should maintain the same order as in the language you're translating from.


I would have used the wo particle over the ga particle - is that incorrect? Does it matter?


Yes, that is incorrect to use with はなせます because はなせます is an intransitive verb - it doesn't have a direct object and doesn't take the を particle.

If you were using はなします instead ("I speak" instead of "I can speak"), that is transitive and you'd use a を.


Why would "I can speak" be intransitive in this case? Wouldn't it still take an object (languages) and a subject (the person who can speak).


I am also interested in the answer to this question. In English, "can" is a modal verb, and the verb "speak" completes its meaning. "English and Japanese" (substantive use of adjectives) are the direct objects of "speak" in this sentence.


I think you both might getting hung up on the idea of these translations being literal equivalents to English and the subject verb object form. In this sentence "English and Japanese" is none of those- it's the topic of the sentence which is a grammatical concept that doesn't quite exist in English which is why it might seem weird that a particular verb can be intransitive. Conjugating the verb to the potential form (う -> え, which in this case is す -> せ) takes care of the "can" so there is no modal verb, and I believe all potential forms are instransitive. My guess is because it's only a potential, it's therefore a general truth and not something that actively needs an object "now." What you're really saying is "(on the topic of) English and Japanese, (I do) have the ability to speak (them)."


Thank you so much for the lucid explanation! It was helpful for me in several ways.


Transitive means that a verb is doing something to a direct object. (Eating food, throwing a ball, reading a book) You eat the food, throw the ball, read the book.
Intransitive is a verb that does not have a direct object. (Going to the store, Sitting in a chair, Dancing to music, Sleeping in bed) You don't "Go" the store or "sit" the chair, "Dance" the music, or "Sleep" the bed.

The dictionary non-past form "speak" 話す・話します・hanasu/hanashimasu is transitive.
英語を話します "I speak English", I do the action of speaking to the object English

The potential form of a verb though is intransitive
英語が話せます "I can speak English" - This takes the subject marker が instead because it's closer to saying "English is speakable" or "English is able to be spoken". You aren't taking action on the noun "English", only describing a state of ability.


What does transitive and intransitive mean?


Which part of the sentence specifies that it's me? I'm confused because it doesn't have something like   わたし in it


You read the note for this lesson. "Pronouns are relatively rare in Japanese, but they are sometimes used to explicitly specify the subject or topic of a sentence. Below are some of the most common ones."


The actual subject can often be obliterated when it's generally clear who/what is meant. (same as in spanish: you leave out the yo (I), tú (you)... and just conjugate the verb) a lot in japanese is said by assuming things through context.


Why is ます used instead of です? If I'm wrong please let me know, but isn't ます for "you" and です for "I"?

Halp meh plz


desu is a verb meaning "is" or "to be", in this case, the verb is hanasu meaning "to speak" with a masu stem making it hanasemasu.


です and ます are both endings for the polite present form. です is used with nouns and adjectives like 日本人です or 高いです (takai = expensive, high) while ます is used as the verb ending together with the verb-stem はな-.

The subject "I" is not used here and you have to guess at it fromt he context. For "I" exist different words: 私 (わたし), ぼく (only used by men) and おれ (used by men and a bit rough or arrogant), for you there is あなた though you mostly talk to or about a person by using their name like "田中さんは何時におきますか." (Mr. Tanaka, at what time do you get up?)


Are you always assumed to be talking about yourself in japanese if you don't state it outright?


Generally, yes. If it's something obvious like "(It) tastes good" then it would be implied to the listener, though, that you are referring to the food, etc. And questions are generally implied to be referring to the listener, i.e. 「名前は何ですか?」would be asking the listener, "What's your name?"


I heard before: イギリス語. Is it used just as often as 英語 or not used at all?


イギリス is actually specifically for the english as a people, not the language. So イギリス人(じん) is correct for "British people" and 英語 is correct for "English language"


What makes this が instead of は、and when do you know to use one of these


は is used as a general topic marker for a sentence; very simply put you can often use it for the subject. が is more used with objects. It's required to use with verbs such as いる (ともだち が いります. = I have a friend.; いる is used for people.) and ある (たべものがあります. = I have food/There is food.; ある is used for things).

In this sentence you could technically also use を as the object marker but in using が instead you put special emphasis on the fact that it's those two languages that you're speaking.

RVJioWts gave quite a throughout explanation further up. ;)


Can someone explain the "hanase" use?


はなせ(る)is the potential form of はなす, meaning that you can/are able to speak (a language). For putting the verb in the present or past treat it like a regular ~る-verb: omit the ending ~る and add ~ます/ません/ました/ませんでした.

The general rule for う-verbs (う、つ、む、す、ぬ、く…) is that you convert the う-ending into an え-ending (え、て、め、せ、ね、け) and add る. It then conjugates like a "normal" る-verb.

For る-verbs you omit the regular ~る at the end and put ~られる instead. It then also conjugates like a "normal" -verb.

くる and する are irregular and transform to こられる and できる respectively, then also conjugate like a "normal" る-verb.


So i think an example conversation like this may clear up the confusion. Bob asks you, "What languages can you speak?" You reply "I can speak English and Japanese" Since you were directly asked, you can ommit the subject ("I" in this case) because it's obvious that Bob asked what languages YOU speak (The subject is about you and what you can speak). Sorry for the English only but I can't seem to find out how to use the Japanese keyboard.


https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/how-to-install-japanese-keyboard/ there's a good explanation on how to use a japanese keyboard on an otherwise european/american keyboard.


Why saying 私は英語と日本語が話せます。is wrong?


Shouldn't it be "英語と日本語 が話せます"? Would it be fine to just write it as はなせ?


yes that's also correct.


Why are they using ”はなせます”, I was told that they are supposed to be using "はなします”. I wasn't told this by some passerby, both of the teachers that taught me Japanese so far have used "はなします”, not "はなせます”.


It's because they are different inflections of the same base verb.
(話 = はな)
話す to speak
話し to speak (polite form)
話せ to be able to speak (potential form)
The first two describe the actual act of words coming from someone's mouth, whereas the third describes the potential ability to do if they wanted to.

Another example would be
(読 = よ)
読む to read
読み to read (polite form)
読め can read


Do all/most verbs follow this pattern of -u, -i, -e for different inflections?


Pretty much. There are very few irregular verbs (する、行く、and 来る are the main ones you'll see).

The rest are split into two types. Ichidan verbs which end in る、and godan verbs which end in other う sounds, like the examples above 話す and 読む. It can get confusing because some verbs ending in る are actually godan verbs.
見る (みる), to see/look, is an ichidan verb and becomes 見ます in its polite form (drop the る).

帰る (かえる), to return home, is a godan verb and becomes 帰ります in its polite form (う to い).

The two types of verbs conjugate in different ways but they are consistent within their groups. When you start doing some inflections like the て-form then the godan verbs break down into smaller groups again.


thanks for explaining; was wondering what form was はなせます. they really do need some verb-from explanations and not just throw all those different forms at us. there are just too many.


why 英語と日本語  はなせます is not the good answer?


も kind of relates here to something else, not the languages. Though it would be grammatically correct to say: 英語はなせます。日本語も話せます。(in 2 different sentences) (I speak English. I also speak Japanese)


So youre telling me the noun comes first?


Yes. The order in japaneses sentences is subject, object, verb. The verb is always at the very end. Additional information like time or place are usually put before the object and in case of omitting the subject at the beginning of the sentence.


So が is after the proper noun? And は is for people!


It's a bit more complicated than that. You can use either particle for both. は is usually used to mark the topic of the sentence and can be used to put special emphasis on something like e.g. あした は 日本 に 行きます. (Tomorrow, I go to Japan.) where you put the emphasis on the fact that you go tomorrow and not today (that you are the one going is implied here; if you talked about Mr. Tanaka in the sentence before, it would probably be him going to Japan by context understanding). Very simply put は is often used with the subject of the sentence.

が is usually used as an obejet marker with verbs similar to を. In some special cases は can be replaced by が though I'm not sure on the rules there. :-/


Is it correct if I say 英語と日本語を話せます (wo instead of ga) or it still need to be 私は英語と日本語を話せます (with watashiwa) ? And is the meaning change from 英語と日本語が話せます or it still be the same?


I'm terribly sorry but in my previous answer I was wrong regarding the use of を and が in this sentence. Here you actually havea to use が because はなす is used in the potential form (はなせる).


It should be also correct with を instead of が. Though を would probably be more used in a general statement while が would stress more on your ability to spreak those two languages, i think. RVJioWts already explained the different use of は and が higher up in the discussion quite well.

You can omit the 私(は) here as it is implied that you're the one being asked if you can speak those languages/what languages you speak. There it's clear from context that your talking about yourself in that statement. You'd have to add 私 though if the person was talking about what languages they themselves (or some other person) are speaking and then you add that you know japanese and english.


There is no "can" here.


It's in the verbform or more precise a variation of the verb はなす ("to speak"). For that one present tense form would be はなします (as はなす is a u-Verb and therefore conjugates by putting the verb-stem in the i-form (す -> し) and adding ます).

Here you got はなせる which means "to be able to speak" and is the potential form of はなす (change "u" to "e" at the ending). This form conjugates as a ru-verb therefore the used form here is はなせます.


Whats the diffrence between "i speak" and "i can speak?


"I can speak" is a potential form, meaning that you are generally able to speak those languages if you have to. "I speak" rather means that you are regularly using those two two languages in your every day life.

Another form which will probably be taught later, would be はなしています which means that you are speaking in that language right now. It's built by using the て-form of the verb "to speak" and the konjugated (polite present tense) form of the verb いる.


I got this wrong because I put the two languages in a different order. I don't think that should matter too much?


I think they want to make sure you match the two words correctly and aren't just guessing at the translation.


What do はなせ do in the sentence?


はなせ(る) stands for "can speak". The translation for "to speak" is はなする. The form of はなせ is the intransitive and translates to "being able to speak". The ending ~ます is for the present tense affirmative of the verb.


What does 'tho' in the sentence stand for?


You mean と?

In here, と is used to say "English AND (と) Japanese". と essentially means "and" when mentioning more than one thing.


Maria (マリア) and (と) John (ジョン)

Maria and John.


What's is difirence between もand と? Foe ex. : ジョンもマリアは日本語が話せます。 and マリアは日本語と英語は話せます。


と is used as "and" for nouns (not verbs and adjectives!) when listing things. If you want to say "I speak english and japanese (among a few others)", you use や instead of と.

example: (私は)いぬとねこがいます。(I have a dog and a cat.)

(私は)いぬやねこがいます。(Among other pets I have a dog and a cat.)

も is used when you want to say, that something has the same properties as something else. note: when using も with the subject, topic-particle or a direkt object, it replaces the other particle (も instead of は, が or を). With particles for time and place it get's added.


1) 田中さんは先生です。(Mr Tanaka is a teacher.) 山口さんも先生です。(Mr Yamaguchi is a teacher, too.) (I'm not sure, you can say it in one sentence like in your example, though.)

2) いぬがいます。(I have a dog.) ねこもいます。(I have a cat, too.)

3) 七時に食べます。(I eat at 7 o'clock.) 十二時にも食べます。(I eat at 12 o'clock, too.)

4) ロンドンで大学があります。(There's a university in London. ) ニューヨーク でもだいがくがあります。(There's a university in New York, too.)


Wait so, if ます is supposed to be a "word" (not really) to make certain words more polite, why would we use it when talking about ourselves? I remember reading that making words more polite than usual when talking about yourself can make you seem like the arrogant, "I'mthe only one that matters" type of person.


ます is an ending that makes the speech in general more polite not just in regards to yourself or the person you speak with. If you use the short/dictionary form of a word it generally indicates familiarity with someone e.g. friends.


I switched 英語 and 日本語, and I got the question wrong...


If you don't put them in the correct order Duo will assume you think 英語 is Japanese and 日本語 is English


Why wasnt 私 used?


It can be omitted (like in spanish) when it's clear that you're talking about yourself. In this case you were probably asked "Which languages can you speak?". Therefore, it'd be clear you are the person who can speak english and japanese.


what is the purpose of every marker in the sentence?


英語/えいご = English

と= and (only used for nouns, not when you want to connect two acitvities)

日本語/にほんご = Japanese

が = object particle (has to be が here and not を because the verb is intransitive/in the potential form)

はなせます = can speak (from はなす = to speak; す to せ for the potential form for verbs with ~う-ending; ~ます for present tense)

The subject (I/わたし) you'd usually use, is omitted here, as can be done in the japanese language (like in spanish) when it's clear that you're talking about yourself.


Can I have a breakdown of this sentence? I'm confused.


英語/えいご = English

と= and (only used for nouns, not when you want to connect two acitvities)

日本語/にほんご = Japanese

が = object particle (has to be が here and not を because the verb is intransitive/in the potential form)

はなせます = can speak (from はなす = to speak; す to せ for the potential form for verbs with ~う-ending; ~ます for present tense)

The subject (I/わたし) you'd usually use, is omitted here, as can be done in the japanese language (like in spanish) when it's clear that you're talking about yourself.


I entered the kanji for japanese first i know that its not i speak japanese and english, but english and japanese. But i know the form and it gets the same idea across. Doesn't it?


why do we end 話せ with ます、and not です?


Why does it suddenly only give me はなせ as an option instead of 話せ like in all previous exercises? Does it make a difference?


With kanji would be the more proper way of writing it and both should be acceptable. I suspect this sentence is a carry-over from the old Japanese course that had very limited kanji usage and managed to slip past the contributors when they were updating.

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