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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!


The concept makes sense to me now. In English, we basically just say the word louder to add emphasis. In text, we have to use ALLCAPS or some other method.


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


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

[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:



    I never understood that either.


    日本語 話せます was accepted.


    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.

    [deactivated user]

      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.


      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 ?

      [deactivated user]

        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?

        [deactivated user]

          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.)


          What about 日本語を話すことができます?


          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


          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 (but could be worth an error report) 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.


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


          What's the difference when between saying '日本語が話せますか?' and '日本語は話せますか?' Do they both mean 'Can you speak japanese?'?


          Pretty sure you're using が when you're saying you speak it and は for when you don't...but thats my understanding of when stating if you speak it or not, not asking if someone else does. Now im curious too


          how about "私は日本語が話せます"


          It's the expected answer now.


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


          日本語が話せる (nihongo 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


          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.


          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?


          You're correct, 私は is optional, and in most sentences it should not matter whether you include it or not.

          Sometimes in the case of a newer sentence, the option with or without 私は simply hasn't been added to the alternative answers yet: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/38591435

          Without more information about what the questions you had were and what your answers were, it's difficult to offer and more feedback than that.


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


          When is the ga needed


          が marks the subject of a sentence. When we use the Japanese potential form (can ~), the thing that you can do becomes the subject.

          私は日本語が話せます。 (watashi wa eigo ga hanasemasu)

          I can speak Japanese, but more literally Japanese can be spoken by me, where "Japanese" becomes the subject of the verb rather than "I".


          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.


          ok, the main thing messing me up in these assignments is the 私. i dont know when to include it or not include it from being replaced by context. can anyone help?


          私 spelled as わたし (watashi) means I or me (any word relating to self). It can be omitted most of the times when the sentence is obviously about one's own self. For eg. If someone asks, おげんき ですか。meaning How are you?, you can simply answer it as げんき てす instead of 私は げんき てす; meaning I'm good but I is omitted here since we know who the person being enquired is. Either one is correct but in Japanese you don't usually say 私 when it is obvious Or if you are confused just use it whenever I is mentioned and as you practice more you'll get a hang of whether you need to use it or not.


          I get correct for, watashi wa nihongo ga hanase masu and nihongo go ga hana se masu as well, plz somebody explain to me about it. Onegaishimasu


          In Japanese, you don't need to use subject pronouns, so 日本語が話せます (nihongo ga hanasemasu) is a natural way to say "I can speak Japanese".

          Sometimes, the subject of the sentence is not clear, or we want to emphasize who the subject is. In those cases, we add the subject pronoun and say 私は日本語が話せます (watashi wa nihongo ga hanasemasu). Both sentences are correct ways to say "I can speak Japanese".


          Why we use は(wa) with 私 and の (no) with 僕??


          It is how the pronoun is being used that is important, not the pronoun itself.
          The only difference between 私 and 僕 is that 私 is more gender neutral and polite, while 僕 is more casual/masculine (for this reason Duo often will not accept 僕 for feminine names).

          は marks the topic of the sentence, this is contextual information for what you are about to say. When it is used you can think of "On the topic of...", "Speaking of...", "About..."
          If the topic of conversation can be assumed through context already it can be omitted. It is only really necessary if clarification is needed.
          私は・ 僕は "On the topic of me..."
          私は日本語が話せます - "As for me, I can speak Japanese"
          僕はアメリカ人です - "As for me, I am American"

          の is a linking particle. It connects two nouns together. It is similar to the use of "of" in English or the " 's". It also shows possession.
          AのB - "The B of A" or "A's B"
          私の・僕の - "The (noun) of me", "My"
          私の名前 - "My name"
          僕の犬 - "My dog"


          Why is it always wrong - I did write it exactly this way


          If that happens again, try to copy and paste your answer or take a screenshot and share it in the comments so other user can offer you advice on what has gone wrong. If we don't know what your answer was, we can't help.


          How does, (英語が話せます) different from (私は英語が話せます). It says I got it wrong when I put the first one in, yet when ( 日本語が話せます) I got it right? I can speak English/Japanese. This how the sentence was given to me? Thank you for your time and help.


          Both sentences are correct. Some possible reasons your answer might have been rejected:

          1) It's a newer sentence that hasn't had a lot of alternative answers added yet. In that case we need to hit the flag button and select "my answer should be accepted." See this post by a contributor: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/38591435

          2) You had a typo or mistake that you didn't notice. For example, maybe you wrote 日本語 instead of 英語, or you used the wrong particle. If you're using the word bank, you might have selected the wrong tile without noticing. If you type your own answers, you might have converted to the wrong kanji without noticing. These small, absentminded mistakes often get my answers marked incorrect, but I don't notice that I've made them when I look at the correction that Duolingo gives me.


          Whats the differnce between masu/masuka and desu/desuka like when do you use masu instead of desu

          • Think of です as being like the English verb "to be".

          • Think of ます as being a part of all other verbs.

          If I want to say "I am Italian", I am using the verb "to be", so in Japanese I use です:

          • 私はイタリア人です。 (watashi wa itaria jin desu)

          If I want to say "I eat rice", the verb in my sentence is "eat". It's not the verb "to be", so I make the verb "eat" by attaching ます to the verb stem 食べ (tabe):

          • 私はご飯を食べます。 (watashi wa gohan o tabemasu)

          In this sentence, we are saying "I can speak Japanese." The verb is not "to be", so we need to use the ます form of the verb. This sentence is a little tricky because it's "can speak" instead of just "speak", which we haven't actually learned yet at this point in the course, but the verb stem for the potential form of the verb is 話せ (hanase), so we get:

          • 日本語が話せます。 (nihongo ga hanasemasu)

          One clue about which to choose is that です does not attach to verb stems, but to nouns and adjectives. です is used in A=B sentences. "I am Italian" means "I"="Italian".

          ます is technically a helping verb used with verb stems, but you can think of it as a required part of the verb. The verb stem by itself (example: 食べ, eat) at the end of a sentence does not express an action (ご飯を食べ is not a correct sentence), so we need ます to make it into a proper verb (ご飯を食べます, where 食べます is a verb meaning "to eat").


          Shouldn't nihongo hanasemasu also count as the correct answer?


          You need a particle between "nihongo" and "hanasemasu" for a grammatically correct sentence.


          Why ますand not です?


          You can think of です like the English verb "to be".

          • 私はフランス人です。 (watashi wa furansujin desu)

          I am French.

          • マリアは先生です。 (maria wa sensei desu)

          Maria is a teacher.

          You use ます with all other verbs. ます is technically a helping verb, but I find it helpful to not think of it as a separate word, but as a part of the verb.

          食べ (tabe) - this is just a verb stem, so to express "eat" in a sentence, you need to add ます

          食べます (tabemasu) - eat

          話し (hanashi) - this is just a verb stem, so to express "speak" in a sentence, you need to add ます

          話します (hanashimasu) - speak

          This sentence uses the potential form (can speak) which is taught later in the course. If we change the し to せ, we get 話せます (hanasemasu), which means "can speak".


          I was wondering if it is important to know every words meaning and where that can be used in terms to learn the language or is it ok to just learn what that sentence is used for and just know what it means as a whole???


          I think that depends on your learning style, and also how far along you are in the course. Early on in the course you are mostly learning phrases and haven't learned about sentence structure yet, so for some it is easier to just memorize the phrase. This specific sentence actually uses advanced grammar (the potential form of the verb: can speak) which won't be taught until later in the course, so if it's easier to just memorize the phrase, then just memorize the phrase. If you're the kind of learner who needs to know more information rather than just memorizing a phrase, then there are many comments in this discussion page where you can learn about each words meaning and function.


          why cant i say? 日本語が話せす。 instead of 私は日本語が話せす。


          日本語が話せす is an acceptable answer
          You most likely had a typo


          Why is the 私は used sometimes but others you just skip it?


          From the Tips for Introduction 2:

          Pronouns are relatively rare in Japanese, but they are sometimes used to explicitly specify the subject or topic of a sentence.


          Is it just me or did watashi and boku no and a few other things just suddenly get thrown in this lesson without any explaining?


          Gutted, tried this one using me keyboard and put 私は日本語話せます but didnt realise id missed out the が between 'japan' and 'speak' which kinda sucks, cuz even without the が it means the same thing right?


          You need particles for a grammatically correct sentence.


          Why is it that sometimes you must use watashi and sometimes you can just leave it off when you "I can speak X"?


          Why is it sometimes 私は日本語が 話


          Why is it sometimes 私は日本語が話せます and others 日本語が話せます. Same for when your saying i can speak English. Help


          Both are equally correct

          私は日本語が話せます - This one explicitly states "I" with the use of pronoun 私

          日本語が話せます - This one does not explicitly state any pronoun so without context this can be interpreted as "I am", "You are", "He/she is", "We are", "They are" etc.

          Japanese often omits pronouns if they can be understood through context, and only really use them if clarification is needed. You would use the version with 私 "I" if it was unclear who you were referring to, such as if the conversation was previously about someone else or multiple people and you needed to bring the attention back to yourself. If the listener already can understand you are talking about yourself then omitting the pronoun is more natural.

          The use of pronouns in Japanese is similar to how in English we introduce someone by their name at the beginning, but then continue to speak about that person with pronouns for the rest of the conversation instead of repeating their name in every sentence. - In English we would say "This is Maria. She is French. She is learning Japanese" and not "This is Maria. Maria is French. Maria is learning Japanese". It isn't wrong to say it either way, but the second sounds very stiff and unnatural because we already know about Maria and don't need reminding.

          In Japanese it is a bit more extreme, with introducing their name in the beginning and then dropping names/pronouns entirely. "This is Maria. -is French. -is learning Japanese" until other people are added to the conversation in which talking about Maria again would then need to be clarified.


          Invisible pronoun rule in Japanese this answer has a typo, if your answer has a no pronoun it mistakens the answer as wrong... 日本語が話せます is as legitimate as 私は日本語が話せます。In real Japanese.


          It's an accepted answer without a typo as shown by Swisidniak's screenshot above, so you might have had an unnoticed actual typo in your answer: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/26507929?comment_id=45763896


          Thanks for your kind.

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