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Potential Form (Verb Conjugation)

Potential Form (Verb Conjugation)

The Potential Form of verbs is used to express the ability to do the verb. It can be used interchangeably with the Dictionary Form VERB + ことが出来る construct, but is actually the more commonly used of the two. The Potential Form conjugation works differently for る-verbs, う-verbs, and irregular verbs.

る-verbs: Replace the る with られる


覚える = 覚えられる
食べる = 食べられる

う-verbs: Replace the う with える


読む = 読める
書く = 書ける
話す = 話せる
待つ = 待てる
行く = 行ける

*The verb行く is rather unique in that it has two potential forms that can be used interchangeably, the other being 行かれる

Irregular Verbs:

する = 出来る

*Notice that出来る is exactly what is used in VERB +ことが出来る, so to say the grammar construct quite literally translates to “I can do VERBing”

来る = 来られる

*The conjugated Potential Form is pronounced こられる

Example (s):

Kono kanji ga rikai dekimasuka?
(Can you understand these Chinese characters?)

Niku ga taberareruka?
(Can you eat meat?)

Mada 18 sai dakara osake ga nomemasen.
(I can’t drink alcohol because I’m still eighteen years old.)

*The Japanese language is known to be rather intermittent in its amendments. The Potential Form is an example of a new approach that has gained considerable legitimacy. This new Potential Form pattern disregards the ら in the られる add-on forる-verbs, making conjugations such as 見られる and 食べられる into 見れる and 食べれる respectively. Frustratingly enough, although this innovation has caught on enough to appear in official Japanese-languages texts, such as newspapers, the revision does not span across every single る-verb, so it is left up to the speaker to remember which る-verbs can be conjugated in this way and still be correctly understood. Of course, for convenience’s sake, it is much easier to strictly follow the られる conjugation.