Potential - Grammar Discussion

Verb [potential]
to be able to do something


  • V(る1) → 見 → 見 られる ⇄ !見 れる
  • V(る5) → 座 →座 れる
  • V(う) → 歌 → 歌 える
  • V(く) → 歩 → 歩 ける
  • V(す) → 話 → 話 せる
  • V(つ) → 打 → 打 てる
  • V(ぬ) → 死 → 死 ねる
  • V(ぶ) → 飛 → 飛 べる
  • V(む) → 休 → 休 める
  • V(ぐ) → 泳 → 泳 げる

:warning:Irregular Verbs​:warning:

  • する → できる
  • くる → こられる

The potential form is used to express that one has the ability to do something.
The verb that is normally used with the particle を, in potential form can take either particle を or が. The exception is できる which only takes が.
There is also a short potential form (ら抜き言葉) of る verbs (ichidan verbs), but it is used in casual situations.

☆Unlike English, the potential form is not used to ask permission. The てもいい construction is used instead:
Can I open the window? 窓を開けてもいい(ですか)?

View on Bunpro

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Are there any nuance differences between [ことができる] and the [Potential form]?

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Haha, we meet again deltacat3! If interested, we had a discussion on nuance in this thread. For everyday usage, I’ve mix both up in conversation and no has flagged me yet. If I chicken out on the potential form in conversation, I will go to ことができる!


Haha, your quickly becoming my new study buddy s1212z! (your help is much appreciated!)
Thank you for supplying that link, I had a another read through of all the third party materials, and this is the best my brain was able to parse.

Potential Form: indicates that you are able/unable to do something (controllable).
例:「食べられない」 I am “able to” eat, but for other reasons (food preferences, religious reasons, time constraints) I cannot eat.

ことができる: indicates that you are capable/incapable of doing something (uncontrollable).
例:「食べることができない」 I am “physically incapable” of eating; there is something (such as a medical condition or apparatus) preventing me from eating.

So they still basically have the same meaning aside with ことができる being more polite and its use to emphasise someones literal capability.

Does this coincide with your thinking aswell? The nuanced difference really hurt my head this time haha (~_~メ)


Chatted with a native on this and your example agrees! I forgot about this and sources like DBJG don’t even mention this. For this nuance, the context can change the rules too so interchanging can happen freely as well. Also sounds like there are certain verbs where this nuance get more exploited due to the type of action.


in the sentence where みつけられなくて すみませんでした is the solution,
how does 見みつける becomes みつけられなくて?
I would think it will be みつけられなくて (was unable to find)


What is the difference between a 1 verb and a 5 verb?? How do I tell the difference?

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1 is ichidan and 5 is godan
(in bunpro they are called る-Verbs and う-Verbs


Hey and welcome on the community forums! :partying_face:

Like @eran said, る1 means ichidan verb (in some books called る verb or group 2 verbs), while る5 means godan verb with る ending (or う verb with る ending or group 1 verb with る ending).

Basically, ichidan verbs most often end with -いる (-iru) or -える (-eru) like 食べる、見る.
All other verbs ending with る are godan. (except する and くる)
Though there are some exceptions, like 帰る (but 変える is ichidan)、 切る (but 着る is ichidan)、いる which are godan verbs.

They differ in the way they are conjugated. In ichidan verbs in only る ending is dropped and a suffix is attached directly.

  • Negative form 食べない
  • Stem form 食べます
  • Dictionary form 食べる
  • Conditional form 食べれば
  • Volitional form 食べよう

In godan verbs, the last vowel is changed depending on conjugation and then suffix is added. All five consonants are used for various conjugations, あ、い、う、え、お。

  • vowel for negative form 帰ない
  • vowel for stem form 帰ます
  • vowel for dictionary form 帰
  • vowel for conditional form 帰
  • vowel for volitional form 帰

I hope it helps,
Cheers! :+1:


It is 見つける -potential of ichidan verb-> 見つけられる -negative->見つけられない -negative て form-> 見つけられなくて -attach すみません to て form-> 見つけられなくてすみません
lit. I am not able to find (it) and I am sorry.

I would think it will be みつけられなくて (was unable to find)

And you are right :+1:


Thank you for the help ^^

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I don’t get this example:

もう一度言ってください。周りがうるさくて きこえません

Where does きこえません come from? I entered 聞けません and it was not happy


‘Audible’ and ‘visible’ (聞こえる、見える) are special though regular potential form does exist for 聞く and 見る w/ a different nuance. TK has a pretty good write up:



If you read further up in this thread you’ll find an explanation. I just ran into the same issue.

I understand the reasoning behind including 聞こえる in the ‘potential’ grammar point. However, I do wish it was mentioned in the grammar summary. Because now I am finding out about this exception in the review and I only managed to find out what’s going on with this question because I saw this discussion. It’s not very intuitive or user-friendly. @mrnoone


@Melanthe @s1212z @emucat

I have decided that this example will be replaced with normal one, and 聞こえる plus 見える deserve grammar point on their own!

And add additional information in warning section!

Thank you for informing us how unintuitive it was!



In the example and question " 私の好きな映画が 見られたら いいね"

Why is it just 見れ or 見られ? Why not 見られる?
does it have to do with the grammar point that follows?

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It’s because of the conditional context ら for “it would be good if…”, ‘hope’ is just smoothing out the translation. They put the link for たら on this sentence, this will explain it best.

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Why does 見つけれなくて not work in 見つけられなくて すみませんでした。?
I see that 見つけれる would be the casual form, but since the question is looking for casual, there must be another reason for it.


Hey :bowing_man:

みつけれなくて has been added to answers!

I have removed the “casual” hint. It was an error in this case. Also, by “casual” we usually mean the short form (not ます・です - long form).

By the way, remember that らless potential forms are considered by some speakers to not be grammatically correct, so be careful when using them.

Sorry for the inconvenience, :bowing_man:


Ah, I see. Thanks :slightly_smiling_face:

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