Home / Learn Japanese / 121. Indicating ability with the potential form

Learn Japanese
Lesson 121: Indicating ability with the potential form

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
Translation to be able to eat to 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
Translation to be able to go to be able to speak to 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
Translation to be able to do to 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 .

Question Answer