Updated: Feb 11, 2019
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こんにちは, Japanese Learner’s! Welcome back to Teach Me Japanese.
Today we are going to be discussing potential form in Japanese. Knowing
potential form allows you to express your ability to do certain things in Japanese.
In English, it is the equivalent of inserting “can” before a verb. (i.e. can drive, can
eat, can swim)
Without further ado, let’s get into the lesson!
Ru-verbs conjugate by replacing る with られる.
Though that is the original, correct way to conjugate ru-verbs into potential form,
these days many people drop ら and simply replace る with れる.
Let’s make some example sentences using the potential form of る verbs. When
using sentence structure “object を potential verb”, you can opt to use が instead
of を. This doesn’t change the meaning.
A ru-verb in potential form still functions as a ru-verb. So to make it negative or turn
it into masu from, all you have to do is drop the final る and add the appropriate
*If you need a refresher you can check out our post on masu form here and
our post on negative form here*
As was the same case in our te-form lesson, the conjugation of u-verbs depends
on the ending syllable.
Let’s look at some examples of sentences using u-verbs in their potential forms.
When changed into potential form, u-verbs also act like ru-verbs. Therefore
making them negative is as simple as replacing る with ない ・ません.
The irregular verbs くる and する each have their own different rules when it
comes to conjugating to potential form.
If you remember when we did our lesson on negative form, くる conjugated
negatively as こない. In potential form we keep the こ, but swap る for られる.
To make it negative you simply replace る with ない・ません.
In potential form the irregular verb する becomes できる. The particle changes
from を to が.
And of course is made negative by replacing る with ない・ません.
Verbs ending in する, such as 勉強する（べんきょうする）, are known as suru
verbs. They combine nouns and the verb suru to create a new verb. Since する in
potential form is できる, all you need to do to change suru verbs into the potential
form is to replace する with できる・できます.
Let’s look at some examples of practical use.
You can make できる negative by dropping る and adding ない・ません.
Like the verb する, できる does not require an object for use.
できる is different from other potential form verbs because its meaning can
change depending on context.
Replacing が with から means that something was made, or came to be, out of
You can also use the plain form of a verb + ことができる to express ability to do
an action. The meaning is the same as if you were to just use the potential form of
the verb. For Example:
Means the exact same thing as :
We will make a whole separate lesson including all of the uses of できる in the near
And that wraps up today’s grammar lesson! If you have any questions or anything you would like for us to expand on, please leave your comments down below or visit our contact page to shoot us an email!
As always, がんばってね！
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