How to Make and Use Japanese Potential Form

  • March 12, 2018 / Lily Cernak / 0 Comment

Japanese Potential Form is a set of conjugation patterns used to describe the ability or inability to do something. For instance, to say “I can knit” or “I can’t sleep” in Japanese, you could change the verbs 編む amu (to knit) and 寝る neru (to sleep) to Potential Form and negative Potential Form, respectively.

What you can learn in this post:

  1. How to conjugate Japanese verbs from Plain Form into Potential Form
  2. A few unique ways on how you can use the verb する suru (to do)’s Potential Form
  3. A few things to be careful of when using Japanese Potential Form
  4. A few additional uses for Japanese Potential Form.

How to Make Japanese Potential Form

As is true of most Japanese conjugation patterns (aside from -Te Form), Japanese Potential Form is fairly simple to make. And, as is also true of most Japanese conjugation patterns, when making Potential Form it is best to start with a verb’s Plain Form. (Plain Form is also sometimes called Dictionary Form or Casual Form).

1.If your verb is a Ru Verb*, remove the final (ru) and replace it with られる(rareru).

寝る寝られる (NeruNerareru)


2. If your verb is a U Verb*, you must change the final vowel of the verb, and then add (ru).

Because Japanese has a syllable-based writing system, changing the final vowel means you must change the entire final syllable of the verb.

Steps:

Firstly, to determine which syllable you will change it to, first check your verb to see what consonant its final syllable begins with.

Then, find that consonant row on a hiragana chart, and slide along the row until you intersect with the “e” column.

For example, to conjugate the verb “nomu” (to drink) to Potential Form, slide along the “m” row until you get to the “e” column. There you will find “me.” Replace the “mu” with “me,” and add “ru”:

飲む飲める (NomuNomeru)


Be careful of verbs ending with “tsu,”
and verbs ending with just a vowel (“u”). The “t” row of the hiragana chart goes “ta chi tsu te to,” with two irregular sounds (“chi” and “tsu”); and so verbs ending with “tsu” will end with “teru” in Potential Form. For example:

立つ立てる (TatsuTateru)


Verbs ending with just the vowel “u” will end with “eru”
in Potential Form. For example:

買う買える (KauKaeru)


Japanese’s two common irregular verbs
する suru (to do) and 来る kuru (to come) conjugate as follows:

するできる (SuruDekiru)

来る来られる (KuruKorareru)


If you are not sure what a Ru Verb is or would like to review, you can read about
Ru Verbs vs. U Verbs in our article about verb stems here.


How to Use Potential Form

There is only one important particle-related rule to remember about Potential Form. When specifically the verb “suru” (to do) is in Potential Form, it can no longer be preceded by the particle “o.”

If you want to use the pattern “[object] o suru,” it will be “[object] ga dekiru” instead.

For example:

かわちゃんは仕事します

Kawa chan wa shigoto o shimasu

(Kawa-chan works).

 

かわちゃんは仕事できます

Kawa chan wa shigoto ga dekimasu

(Kawa-chan can work).


For all verbs other than “suru,” there is not necessarily any change in particles of Potential Form vs. non-Potential Form. However, if a verb is in Potential Form and is being used in the pattern “[object] o [verb],” you have the option to use the pattern “[object] ga [verb]” instead with little difference in meaning either way.

For example:

かわちゃんは指輪買えます

Kawa chan wa yubiwa o kae masu

(Kawa-chan can buy a ring).

 

かわちゃんは指輪買えます

Kawa chan wa yubiwa ga kae masu

(Kawa-chan can buy a ring).


The difference is that in the first sentence, “ring” is a direct object – it is the thing Kawa-chan’s action (buying) affected. In the second sentence, the ring is the subject – it is being talked about, and the thing being said is that Kawa-chan can buy it. In many sentences, this difference is insignificant.  

If you would like more information on particles, click here to see a list of our Japanese particle articles!

One very felicitous thing about Japanese Potential Form is that conjugating a verb into its Potential Form also turns the verb into a Ru Verb.

This is true even of the irregular verbs する (suru) and 来る (kuru)! This makes using and further conjugating Potential Verbs very simple (remember: in most cases, Ru Verbs conjugate by removing their final (ru) and replacing that “ru” with another kana or series of kana).

For example:

かわちゃんは疲れていなくても寝られる

Kawa chan wa tsukarete inakute mo nerareru

(Even if Kawa-chan is not tired, she can sleep).


Because both the Plain Form and the Potential Form of “neru” (to sleep) are Ru Verbs, the
-Masu Form of the above sentence is:

かわちゃんは疲れていなくても寝られます

Kawa chan wa tsukarete inakute mo nerare masu

(Even if Kawa-chan is not tired, she can sleep).

 

かわちゃんは猫舌じゃないから、熱いコーヒーを飲める

Kawa chan wa nekojita janai kara, atsui ko-hi- o nomeru

(Kawa-chan is not sensitive to hot foods, so she can’t drink hot coffee).


“Nomu” (to drink) is a U Verb, but its Potential Form is a Ru Verb; so if we wanted to change the above sentence to be
negative past tense it would be:  

かわちゃんは猫舌だから、熱いコーヒーを飲めなかった

Kawa chan wa nekojita da kara, atsui ko-hi- o nome nakatta

(Because Kawa-chan is sensitive to hot foods, she couldn’t drink the hot coffee).

 

かわちゃんはパーティーに来られる

Kawa chan wa pa-ti- ni korareru

(Kawa-chan can come to the party).


“Kuru” (to come) is an irregular verb, but its Potential Form is a Ru Verb; so if we wanted to change the above sentence to be
past tense it would be:

かわちゃんはパーティーに来られた

Kawa chan wa pa-ti- ni korareta

(Kawa-chan was able to come to the party).


Additional Uses for Dekiru

Aside from simply being the Potential Form of “suru” (to do), “dekiru” has several other unique and important uses.

If you place the particle “dake” (only) after “dekiru,” you get a phrase that literally would translate to “only [what you] can”. It’s use is similar to the English “as much as you can.”

出来るだけ強く掴んでください。

Dekiru dake tsuyoku tsukande kudasai

(Please grip as hard as you can).


The use of “Dekiru” in some contexts are more similar to the English “to accomplish” or “can make” rather than “can do.”

For example:

ご飯が出来ました

Gohan ga deki mashita

(Literally “I was able to make food,” used similarly to the English “The food is ready”).

 

友達が出来ました

Tomodachi ga deki mashita

(Literally “I was able to make a friend”).

 

赤ちゃんが出来ました

Aka chan ga deki mashita

(Literally “I was able to make a baby,” used similarly to the English “I got pregnant”).

 

彼女が出来ました

Kanojo ga deki mashita

(Literally “I was able to make a girlfriend,” used similarly to the English “I got/was able to get a girlfriend”).


You may also hear people simply say 出来ました! (deki mashita!) or 出来た! (dekita!) (both literally meaning “I was able to do it!”) with no additional words attached when they finish a difficult (or easy) task.

That’s all on Potential Form for now! There are quite a few notes for Potential Form that we did not have space to cover in this article. So don’t forget to keep an eye on the Kawa Kawa Blog for more Potential Form articles in the future.

If you have any questions or anything you would like to add, leave us a comment and let us know!

*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*

Loading..

Please wait a moment …