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119. Indicating ability with the potential form

Learn Japanese
Lesson 119: Indicating ability with the potential form

In Japanese the ability to perform an action is expressed through conjugation of the verb instead of adding words like "can" or "able to." This tense is called the potential form.

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

How the verb is conjugated depends on whether the verb ends in -る or not.

For verbs with -る endings, change the -る ending into -られる.

Verbs ending in -る べる つく
Potential form べられる つくられる
Polite potential form べられます つくられます
Translation to be able to eat to be able to make

For non -る endings, change the final う-sound into an え-sound, and add -る as ending.

Verbs not ending in -る 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 .

Lesson contributors

Erik