"Professor Tanaka can speak Japanese and English."


September 30, 2018



I have so hard time with 'ga'..

September 30, 2018


It is a confusing topic. It doesn't help that a natural sounding English translation can be quite different from the Japanese grammar.


"As for Professor Tanaka, Japanese and English can be spoken/understood." or "As for Professor Tanaka, Japanese and English are able to speak." or "Japanese and English are able to be spoken (by) Professor Tanaka"

Professor Tanaka is marked by は, so he is the topic of the sentence. Sometimes the topic is also the subject, but Tanaka CAN'T be the subject of this sentence, because we already have a subject and it is clearly not Professor Tanaka.

In this sentence, が marks 日本語と英語 (Japanese and English) as the grammatical subject of the sentence. The verb 話せます is the potential form of 話す (to speak), so it means something like "to be able to speak" or "to be able to talk". It's very hard to make a decent English sentence that has Japanese and English as the subject of this verb, because we would not usually express this idea in that way using English. In English, we would want Professor Tanaka to be the subject, since the subject of the sentence is the one who is "doing" the verb's action. But in this sentence, the subject is English and Japanese. They are able to be spoken (by professor Tanaka).

"As for Professor Tanaka, (he) speaks Japanese and English."

This sentence is MUCH easier to translate into a reasonable English sentence, because now 日本語と英語 are marked as the direct object instead of the grammatical subject. That makes a lot more sense in English, because that means that Professor Tanaka can be the subject of the sentence. He is speaks the languages.

However, in Japanese, either way of saying it would be perfectly fine. Both sentences mean that Mr Tanaka is able to speak both languages. The only difference is the underlying grammar in the Japanese sentence. Typically, the English translation ends up being identical, because it is too hard to express the difference without breaking the English sentence in weird ways.

September 30, 2018


Thank you so much for the explanation. A Lingot is the way one shows such thanks, I believe.

October 8, 2018


How does one give a lingot?

May 21, 2019


Doesn't seem like you can on mobile, at least currently

June 14, 2019


That was incredible enlightening, thank you very much, I still have some doubts about how the use particle ga (が), because I harldy will see in the future "Japanese and English" as a subject for "can speak" or "be able to speak".

November 29, 2018


Finally, a perfect explanation lol

December 17, 2018


slow claps What you said makes it so much easier to figure out that one of many little details, が. Thank you!

April 15, 2019


tanks man it helped

January 28, 2019


Thanks. Very clear.

March 11, 2019


Thank you for the explanation

December 14, 2018


this helped alot thanks!

January 20, 2019


Merci beaucoup ! It's a very clear and understandable explanation !

May 16, 2019


This was so useful thank you very much, I had so much trouble with the ga and wa and now I think I understand it better.

June 6, 2019


Thanks, this helps

April 12, 2019



July 16, 2019


Me too, I've gotten this wrong like 4 times.

October 5, 2018


Same, havent quite figured out what its used for

September 30, 2018


Strictly speaking, が is the subject marker. It indicates which noun is responsible for doing whatever action is defined by the main verb in the sentence. In English, word order is largely responsible for defining grammatical relationships. In Japanese, word order is less important, because major grammatical functions are defined by particles.

(Jon ga ringo o tabeta.)
John ate apples.

(Jon o ringo ga tabeta.)
Apples ate John.

In English, we flip the word order. In Japanese, you can change the meaning just by moving the particles around. Word order could stay the same, but the grammatical roles are determined by the particles.

You can also use the topic marker, は, to say something very similar. は indicates the current topic of the conversation. Almost anything can be a topic, it might be the subject, the location, the direct object, the time, etc. The topic marker does not define grammatical roles, like を(direct object marker) or が (subject marker). It just changes the topic under discussion.

(Jon ha ringo o tabeta.)
"As for John, (he) ate apples."

(Ringo wa jon ga tabeta)
"As for apples, John ate (them)."

When marking something as the topic, は sometimes replaces or "covers up" other grammatical particles, like が or を. But the relationships are unchanged.

October 1, 2018


True,me too.

March 23, 2019


don't see why i had ”田中先生は日本語と英語話せます” incorrect when i just had はなせ in its kanji form, 話せ

October 9, 2018


Looks like you are also missing a particle after 英語. That is probably why.

October 9, 2018


ah ❤❤❤❤. how didnt i see that

October 10, 2018


It probably wanted you to add が between 英語 and 話せ.

June 10, 2019


Which is more appropriate for "professor": 先生 or 教授?

November 16, 2018


That would be interesting to know

November 29, 2018


Hi everyone, I wrote it as 田中先生は日本語と英語はなせます。, without が and it tells me its also correct, why is it?

October 20, 2018


Seems like an error. You need a particle (such as が ) in between 英語 and はなせます。

You may see or hear some particles muted or dropped in informal conversation or very informal writing by natives. Even in these cases the dropped particles are still implied so they are still "there", in a sense.


October 22, 2018


田中先生は日本語と英語はなせます was accepted. I forgot the が.

December 17, 2018


What is the difference between using です and ます ? I've gotten used to seeing です at the end of some sentences, but occasionally I see ます instead in a similar use? I'm pretty new to this, so I apologize if it's a silly question..

January 15, 2019


Not a silly question. I don't think DuoLingo really explains verb conjugation very well (or at all?).

Anyways, です is a copula, which is a special verb or verb-like word that is used to equate two nouns or noun phrases. In English, we use the verb "to be" for this purpose. In Japanese, the word です and its variations are used in much the same way. It makes a sentence that forms an "A is B" structure. For example, "John is a student" or "That is a dog" In Japanese, you'll often see a similar sentence written with the structure AはBです, so ジョンは学生です or それは犬です for those sample sentences.

But not all sentences are "A is B". A lot of sentences are "A does B" sentences, where an action is being done by someone or something. This kind of sentence does not end in です. Instead, it will end in some other verb. For example, "John goes to school" ジョンは学校に行ます or "The dog plays in the park" 犬は公園で遊びます. The verb "to go" is 行く (pronounced "iku"). This is the plain or "dictionary" form of the verb. If you are speaking politely, you will inflect the verb into its polite form, which is 行きます. The verb "to play" is 遊ぶ (pronounced "asobu"). Its non-paste polite form is 遊びます. All verbs have a polite and informal/casual form. They can also be further inflected into negative, past-tense, present-progressive, passive, imperative ... and many others. Japanese uses many "auxiliary" or "helper" verbs which can be added on to the main verb to convey different meanings. The politeness modifier is one of these helper verbs and it always goes at the very end.

Long story short, if the sentence ends in ます, it is an "A does B" type sentence. There is a main verb that is telling you what is being done and it happens to be in the polite form. If it ends in です, it is an "A is B" type sentence. Sometimes the English translation will make it seem like it should be a verb sentence, but that is almost always because the English translation is pretty loose and not following the Japanese grammar.

Just keep in mind, not all sentences are written in polite form. And although sentences almost always end in a verb of some kind, there are other ways to end a sentence beyond just です or ます. For example, the sentence ending particle か is used to mark a sentence as a question and another sentence ending particle よ is used to make the sentence sound more emphatic or draw attention to new information.

January 16, 2019


Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this, it makes a big difference in my learning. I'm a fan of English Language Arts, so it does bother me a bit that DuoLingo doesn't always explain why characters are laid out a certain way, but these discussion forums make all the difference. Excellent explanation; thanks again!

January 16, 2019


Thank you for this. Was confusing me too. Duolingo kind of explains this a bit, but more indirectly and not as well put as you've posted.

January 16, 2019


Where is も? 日本語も英語

October 8, 2018


For this sentence, と works better.

も (mo) can be used to apply a previous statement to an additional item. Like if you said, "Mr. Tanaka can speak English. He can also speak Japanese." It has the sense of "also" or "as well" or "too". も has some other uses, but they aren't related to this sentence.

You need an inclusive listing particle like と to link together English and Japanese into a single unit. も doesn't work.

October 9, 2018


You can use も, but the nuance of the sentence changes a bit. If I were telling you Mr. Tanaka speaks these languages and it is really impressive, I would say:


Maybe not a great example if bilingual doesn't impress folks here on duo, but it can be applied generally to lists.


October 14, 2018


英語も日本語も話せます。is like He can speak 'BOTH' English 'AND' Japanese. i.e. I like both apples and oranges. わたしはりんご「も」オレンジ「も」好きです。 I like apples and oranges. わたしはりんごとオレンジが好きです。

November 6, 2018


Isn't 話せます supposed to be 話します?

December 10, 2018


話します = polite present tense (I speak, I will speak).

話せます = potential form (I can speak, I am able to speak).

Unfortunately, this is the only verb Duo teaches the potential form for. Blink and you miss it!

December 21, 2018


Wow, was I wrong about this. 話す (話します) and 話せる (話せます) are two entirely different words. This is not the potential form, which I'm not sure exists in Japanese. There are lot of these paired verbs in Japanese, where a single kana makes for a subtle change in meaning. Another example from Duolingo is 見る (to see) and 見せる (to show to someone).

May 16, 2019


話せる is the potential form of 話す, which definitely does exist in Japanese, you were right before.

In general for a godan verb you change ~u to ~eru (like here, hanasu -> hanaseru), while for an ichidan, you change ~ru to ~rareru (e.g. taberu -> taberareru). Note potential and passive are the same for ichidans. Then there are the weirdos する -> できる, 来(く)る -> 来(こ)られる.

May 21, 2019


This is good info. Interesting that the dictionary has them listed at two different words, although I guess we're splitting hairs about whether they're different words or different forms of the same word.



Also, I've observed it to be quite common among native speakers to use 出来るto form the potential, as another option.

May 23, 2019


This is confusing me a bit

December 14, 2018


Read the top reply of the top comment, the one by DestinyCall. That post breaks down the whole sentence and should help.

January 3, 2019


Isn't it: tanaka no sensei instead of tanaka sensei?

January 3, 2019


I don't think so. It has to do with the fact that sensei is a part of the name as a title, so there isn't a need to indicate possession for it. Tanaka no sensei translates to "Teacher of Tanaka", simplified as "Tanaka's Teacher". To show that Tanaka is the teacher, it goes right after the name as do all titles for names in Japanese. Hope this helps.

January 3, 2019


my goodness it is long and cunfusing

January 28, 2019


When is "ha (は)" used? I have such a hard time using that.

February 17, 2019


I got it right but it says it's wrong

February 27, 2019


hey everyone :D

March 11, 2019



March 14, 2019



March 22, 2019


Shouldn't 話す conjugate to 話します? Not 話せます。

March 26, 2019


話せる is the potential form of 話す.

話せます is the polite potential form. It means "can speak" or "able to speak", while 話します is simple "to speak"

March 26, 2019


Wth this is messed up.

March 29, 2019


Thank you! ありがとう!

April 11, 2019


Ok so just to clarify は (wa) is used to identify the subject (田中先生) and が modifies 話せます to show that its referring to 日本語と英語 right? And を wouldn't be used here since he isnt currently speaking?

April 17, 2019


Nope. The subject is 日本語と英語. Remember, the particle が is the subject marker and は is the topic marker. It's important to not confuse these roles if you want to gain a proper understanding of Japanese grammar. In this sentence, the topic and the subject are not the same.

を is a direct object marker. The verb 話せます(to be able to speak) is intransitive, so it does not take a direct object. It is not really related to whether or not Mr Tanaka is currently speaking, but simply how the verb works.

It might help to see a more direct translation:

"As for Mr Tanaka, Japanese and English can be spoken."

Grammatically, this sentence is basically written in "passive voice". So instead of Mr Tanaka being able to speak Japanese and English, the sentence is flipped around. Japanese and English are able to be spoken (by Mr Tanaka).

April 17, 2019


I have a hard time with these sentences, it's the ga's and ha's that get me. Every time!

April 28, 2019


i need help understanding this because it is difficult

April 28, 2019


this is hard stuff

May 3, 2019


Does "wa" always come before "ga," or is there some kind of rule?

May 4, 2019


Tfw tanaka sensei isnt real

May 9, 2019


I find it annoying because if you cant here it at that time you cant get it right

May 20, 2019


Very difficulty

May 26, 2019


I just swapped Japanese and english...

June 16, 2019


They've done a horrible job explaining this entire topic.

June 17, 2019


Anybody else feel like these questions are getting too repetitive? Reaching level 5 is too tedious with nothing new learned in the process.

June 22, 2019


Why is it just はませ and not はなせる?

June 30, 2019


Wouldn't the correct be を instead of が?

July 10, 2019


No, the verb 話せる ("to be able to speak") is intransitive, so it does not use を.

July 10, 2019


I am totally confused. A sentence said マリアとジョンが日本語は話せます, in that sentence the speakers are marked with が. In this sentence 田中先生は日本語と英語が話せます, why the speaker is marked with は and not with が? What the difference lies in?

July 16, 2019
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