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Expressions of Ability

Part 1: How to Express Ability and Potential Ability and potential can be expressed by two different ways. (1) Attaching the phrase "~ koto ga dekiru (~ことができる)" after the basic form of the verb. Literally "koto (こと)" means "thing," and "dekiru (できる)" means "can do." The formal form of "~ koto ga dekiru (~ことができる)" is "~ koto ga dekimasu (~ことができます)," and past tense is "~ koto ga dekita (~ koto ga dekimashita)." Nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekiru. I can speak Japanese. 日本語を話すことができる。 Piano o hiku koto ga dekimasu. I can play piano. ピアノを弾くことができます。 Yuube yoku neru koto ga dekita. I could sleep well last night. 夕べよく寝ることができた。 "~ dekiru (~できる)" can be directly attached to a noun, if a verb is closely associated with its direct object. Nihongo ga dekiru. 日本語ができる。 Piano ga dekimasu. ピアノができます。 I can speak Japanese. I can play piano.

(2) By potential form of the verb. Potential verb forms are formed as shown below. Basic form iku (to go) 行く kaku (to write) 書く miru (to see) 見る taberu (to eat) 食べる kuru (to come) 来る suru (to do) する Potential form ikeru 行ける kakeru 書ける mirareru 見られる taberareru 食べられる koreru 来れる dekiru できる

U-verbs: replace the final "~u" with "~eru". RU-verbs: replace the final "~ ru" with "~ rareru". Irregular verbs

In informal conversation, "~ra (~ら)" is often dropped from potential form of RU-verbs. For example, "mireru (見れる)" and "tabereru (食べれる)" instead of "mirareru (見られ る)" and "taberareru (食べられる)." The potential form of the verb can be replaced with the form using "~ koto ga dekiru (~こ とができる)." It is more colloquial and less formal to use the potential form of the verb. Supeingo o hanasu koto ga dekiru. スペイン語を話すことができる。 Supeingo o hanaseru. スペイン語を話せる。 Sashimi o taberu koto ga dekiru. 刺身を食べることができる。 Sashimi o taberareru. 刺身を食べられる。 I can speak Spanish.

I can eat raw fish.

Here are some exercises. Translate into Japanese. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) I can write hiragana. I can't drive a car. Can you play guitar? Tom could read this book when he was five. Can I buy the ticket here?

Here are the answers to the exercises. (1) I can write hiragana. Hiragana o kaku koto ga dekiru/dekimasu. ひらがなを書くことができる/できます。 Hiragana ga kakeru/kakemasu. ひらがなが書ける/書けます。 Unten suru koto ga dekinai/dekimasen. 運転することができない/できません。 Unten ga dekinai/dekimasn. 運転ができない/できません。 Gitaa o hiku koto ga dekimasu ka. ギターを弾くことができますか。 Gitaa ga hikemasu ka. ギターが弾けますか。 Gitaa hikeru. ギター弾ける? (With rising intonation, very informal) Tomu wa gosai no toki kono hon o yomu koto ga dekita/dekimashita. トムは五歳のときこの本を読むことができた/できました。 Tomu wa gosai de kono hon o yometa/yomemashita. トムは五歳でこの本を読めた/読めました。 Kokode kippu o kau koto ga dekimasu ka. ここで切符を買うことができますか。 Kokode kippu o kaemasu ka. ここで切符を買えますか。 Kokode kippu kaeru. ここで切符買える? (With rising intonation, very informal)

(2) I can't drive a car.

(3) Can you play guitar?

(4) Tom could read this book when he was five.

(5) Can I buy the ticket here?

Expressing one’s thoughts
When expressing one's thought, feelings, opinions, ideas and guesses, "~ to omou (I think that ~)" is frequently used. The particle "to" indicates that the preceding sentence or words are a quotation. Since "~ to omou" always refers to the speaker's thoughts, "watashi wa" is normally omitted. Ashita ame ga furu to omoimasu. 明日雨が降ると思います。 Kono kuruma wa takai to omou. この車は高いと思う。 Kare wa furansu-jin da to omou. 彼はフランス人だと思う。 Kono kangae o dou omoimasu ka. この考えをどう思いますか。 Totemo ii to omoimasu. とてもいいと思います。 I think it will rain tomorrow. I think this car is expensive. I think he is French. What do you think about this idea? I think it is very good.

If the content of the quoted clause expresses one's intention or speculation about a future event or state, a volitional form of a verb is used preceding "~ to omou." To express a thought other than one's volition or opinion toward the future, a plain form of a verb or adjective is used preceding "~ to omou" as shown in the examples above. Oyogi ni ikou to omou. 泳ぎに行こうと思う。 Ryokou ni tsuite kakou to omou. 旅行について書こうと思う。 I think I'm going to swim. I think I will write about my trip.

To express a thought or idea you have at the time of your statement, "~ to omotte iru (I am thinking that ~)" is used rather than "~ to omou." Haha ni denwa o shiyou to omotte imasu. 母に電話しようと思っています。 Rainen nihon ni ikou to omotte imasu. 来年日本に行こうと思っています。 Atarashii kuruma o kaitai to omotte imasu. 新しい車を買いたいと思っています。 I'm thinking of calling my mom.

I'm thinking of going to Japan next year. I'm thinking that I want to buy a new car.

When the subject is a third person, "~ to omotte iru" is used exclusively. Kare wa kono shiai ni kateru to omotte iru. 彼はこの試合に勝てると思っている。 He thinks he can win this game.

Unlike English, the negation "I don't think" is normally placed within the quoted clause. It is possible to negate "~ to omou" such as "~ to omowanai," however, it expresses stronger doubt, and is close to the English "I doubt that ~." Maki wa ashita konai to omoimasu. 真紀は明日来ないと思います。 Nihongo wa muzukashikunai to omou. I don't think Maki is coming tomorrow. I don't think Japanese is difficult.

日本語は難しくないと思う。