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Japanese

Lesson 121: Indicating ability with the potential form

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In Japanese the ability to perform an action is expressed through conjugation of the verb, instead of by using auxiliary verbs like can and to be able to. This conjugation puts the verb into the potential form.

The potential form of all verbs ends in -る, and all potential forms are Group 2 verbs. Therefore, to convert a verb in potential form into -ます form, you simply replace the -る ending with -ます.

How the original verb is conjugated into the potential form depends on the verb group.

For verbs in Group 2, change the -る ending into -られる.

Group 2 verbsべる
Potential formべられるられる
Polite potential formべられますられます
Translationto be able to eatto be able to see

For verbs in Group 1, change the final う-sound into an え-sound, and add -る as ending.

Group 1 verbsはな
Potential formけるはなせるめる
Polite potential formけますはなせますめます
Translationto be able to goto be able to speakto be able to drink

The potential forms of, する and are special cases.

Special casesする
Potential formできるられる
Polite potential formできますられます
Translationto be able to doto be able to come

When using the potential form, what in English would be the object, is the subject in Japanese. Therefore you will see the subject particle where you would expect the object particle .

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