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"I can speak Japanese."


March 7, 2018



Hah! First comment...! Anyway a good time for a honest question:

Why is 'では' spoken as 'de-wa' but 'がはなせ' as 'ga-ha-na-se'?

Whats even the difference between 'は' 'では' and 'がはなせ'? Are there even more of these subject markers?

Ty already :)


this sentence literally reads as "nihongo ga hanasemasu". the reason that は is pronounced like "ha" not "wa" in this sentence is because the は is part of the verb はなす (話す, hanasu = to speak). 「はなせます」literally means "can speak".

は is pronounced as "wa" when it's the topic particle as sierraw13 has already commented. が (which isn't part of はなせ) is the identifier particle. these are concepts that are pretty difficult for native english speakers to understand (myself included) so i'd look them up to gain a better understanding (i still haven't wrapped my head around them). but i know if you change them in certain sentences it can alter the meaning. like this:

私はジョンです (watashi wa jon desu = i am john)

私がジョンです (watashi ga jon desu = i am john)

they translate as the same thing but they have different implications. in the first sentence, the important part is that you are john. it's sort of like saying "as for me, (i) am john". that's how i've seen others describe it. on the other hand, the second sentence, the important part is that you are john. this would probably be in response to a question such as "who is john"?

i think が is used here because the sentence involves a potential form of the verb (i can speak japanese), but it would be nice if someone could clarify that.

では is another such particle that's really a combination of two other particles. you've probably seen では in ではない (de wa nai) or ではありません (de wa arimasen), which both mean "am not", "are not", "is not", etc. in this case, the は is pronounced as "wa".

in summary, は is pronounced "wa" when it's used as a particle & "ha" for anything else.

sorry if this is a little confusing as i'm still learning too. hope this helps :)


Yes, you use が when using potential form.


That helped a lot, thanks!


Are you asking why は is sometimes pronounced "wa" and sometimes "ha"? Most of the time it is "ha" but when it is used as a particle it is "wa". If you look up stuff about the particle は or just particles in general that should help clear things up better than I can.


The reason は is pronounced 'wa' when used as a particle is because of historic pronunciation. This is a good explanation: https://japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/379/why-are-the-particles-は-ha⇒wa-へ-he⇒e-and-を-wo⇒o-not-spelled-phonet

[deactivated user]

    Why the heck do they throw in a phrase in Potential verb form, already in a tier 4 assignment? We have hardly even touched verbs in their default present form at that point. It took me very long trying to figure out why it was not 日本語がはなします and how the i was suddenly turned into an e. 話す to 話せる

    Isn't there supposed to be some logical progression to how we first learn to use simple verbs in their most basic forms, then you add more complex verb forms such as the potential form?

    Anyway, for anyone else who got stuck wondering what is going on in this sentence, this page was helpful to me:



    Wow, I can't translate "I can speak Japanese" to Japanese. That's depressing.


    I think that the ap LingoDeer has a good info page on this in their second lesson, but it only states that the pronunciation is changed and does not really say why either. I have been using both aps because that one seems great for sentence structure, and this one feels less painfully dragging.


    What's the correct way to say "I speak English and Russian"? Is it "Eigo to roshiago ga hanasemasu"?


    英語とロシア語が話せます (eigo to roshiago ga hanasemasu)

    I can speak English and Russian.

    英語とロシア語を話します (eigo to roshiago o hanashimasu)

    I speak English and Russian.


    I never understood that either.


    Isn't 日本語 the object in this sentence (with a left out watashi as subject)? So why isn't it 日本を?


    はなせます ("can speak") is an intransitive verb. It doesn't have a direct object and thus doesn't take を. You're not actively saying that you're doing the action of speaking, you're just stating that you have the passive ability of being able to speak.

    If you used はなします instead ("speak"), that would be the active form and would have a direct object and a を. はなせます is called the "potential form" of はなします, because you're saying that you have the potential to speak, not that you're actually speaking.


    Thats what im unsure of as well. I remember being taught 日本語を話します


    Shouldn't は be used here instead of が ?


    This is a little confusing for non-native speakers (myself included), but が indicates the subject of the sentence, and は indicates the topic of conversation. In this sentence, the topic of conversation is (probably) not the Japanese language, so we don't use は here.

    See mfazzolari's explanation above for a better (and more detailed) explanation.

    As a side note, 「日本語を話せます」 is also an accepted answer (minus the quotation marks).


    So hear me out. The full sentence would look like わたし (は) 日本語 (が) はなせます.

    は describes the overarching topic of what is being discussed and in this sentence, you, the speaker, are the topic. It's implied so we don't have to say it in conversation, but it is there, just hidden.

    But now that we know that you are the topic, what are you doing? What is happening to you? How can we describe you? One usage of が that I've noticed is to make a specific and direct connection between things. In this case, it directly links "japanese" to the verb "can speak" to make the complete thought "(the overarching topic) can speak japanese".

    As for the reason why it's が and not を, RVJoWts did a great job of explaining that. Hope this helps. Sorry if it's confusing


    I don't know how many explanations of は vs が I've read but this is the one that finally helped me to understand. どうもありがとうございました!


    Why do you have to use "I" (watashi) aometimes but not here?


    You have to include 私 when the subject (or topic of conversation) isn't obvious. In this example, the subject is /technically/ the Japanese language (because it has a が), but it's gathered from context that the speaker is referring to themselves.

    This is also why it's unnecessary to include 私 in sentences such as the following: 「ジョンともうします」 「おちゃが好きです」

    For similar reasons, あなた is excluded in sentences where the listener is clearly the subject: 「英語をはなせますか?」

    (Please note that the above examples have replaced several kanji with their hiragana readings.)


    Isnt it supposed to be はなします?


    Copied from Swisdniak's comment above:

    話します - "Speaks" - present/future polite form - transitive

    日本語を話します - I (will) speak Japanese

    話せます - "Can speak" - potential polite form - intransitive

    日本語が話せます - I (am able to) speak Japanese


    When i was in japan, they told me to say: 日本語ができます。Is it also a right way to say it?


    Yes, it's correct. It might not be accepted for this translation because they're looking for us to translate "can speak" literally as はなせます, whereas the perfectly correct in Japanese 日本語ができます translates to the odd-sounding "I can Japanese" in English.


    how about "私は日本語が話せます"


    What about 日本語を話すことができます?


    I think it would be accepted if you submitted an error report.


    Form 'masu' has to be used? Or only when you want to be formal?


    英語が話せる (eigo ga hanaseru) would be correct if you were speaking with your friends or peers.


    英語 を 話せます

    Ive seen the use of を instead of が in some cases, whats the reason behind it ?


    を is the grammatically correct particle to use with the regular form of the verb: 英語を話します (eigo o hanashimasu, I speak English). が is the grammatically correct particle to use with the potential form: 英語が話せます (eigo ga hanasemasu, I can speak English). Some native speakers have started using を with the potential form, though.

    From StackExchange:

    In the が + potential construction, the focus is on the noun.

    新聞が読める (what I am able to read is newspapers [as opposed to other written media])

    ここで切符が買えますか (is this where tickets [as opposed to other items for sale] can be bought?)

    In the を + potential construction, the focus is on the entire phrase.

    新聞を読める (what I am able to do is read newspapers)

    ここで切符を買えますか (is this where I am able to buy tickets [as opposed to doing some other action]?)

    を + potential is not yet considered standard, but has begun to gain acceptance among some speakers.

    (Paraphrased from Japanese: The Spoken Language)


    Why do we use the "ga" particle even though the verb is transitive? Thanks :)


    See the above comments. The potential form of the verb is intransitive as it has to do with an ability to do an action, not an action taking place.
    ます - can speak

    The transitive form is 話ます - speaks


    I thought it was はなします?


    ます - "Speaks" - present/future polite form - transitive
    日本語を話します - I (will) speak Japanese

    ます - "Can speak" - potential polite form - intransitive
    日本語が話せます - I (am able to) speak Japanese


    So how would I say I can speak a little Japanese?



    Nihongo ga sukoshi hanasemasu.

    I can speak a little Japanese.




    Is the narrator in this question supposed to say Masu, like pronounce the "su", or is it supposed to sound like "mas'?


    Most people cut the "u" off of the end of "masu" so it sounds like "mas". Some people pronounce the "u" in some situations.


    Whats the difference between はなせます。and 請せます


    I think you mean 話せます.

    はなせます is the phonetic reading of 話せます. There's no actual difference in meaning, it's just that an adult would more likely use the kanji 話せます and a young child or a learner of Japanese who doesn't know the kanji would more likely use はなせます.


    "I can speak Japanese." - No I can't :(


    It's weird that I have to add the "watashi" part, yet when duolingo does it as an excercise, it's completely fine. What am I missing here?


    in normal conversation, we don't need to put 私は。


    When is the ga needed


    Shouldn't we use を while using verbs ? Hanase is to speak so why Nihongo ga hanasemasu n why not Nihongo o hanasemasu?


    look at it from a grammatical standpoint. 日本語 is the subject - it's performing the action, in this case "being spoken," hence が.

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