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Japanese Potential Verb

In this lesson we will study the "Potential form" of Japanese verbs. The Japanese potential verbs help us to express whether we are able to perform a particular action or not.

When we want to say that "I can do…/ I am able to do…" or "I cannot do…/ I am not able to do …" at that time we make use of the Japanese potential verb. Other Japanese grammar which we are going to learn is how to say a sentence using "without" and when two actions happen simultaneously then in that case how to say that in Japanese language. All this grammar is very important from the point of view of your JLPT level N4 exam.

1) In the first sentence pattern we are going to learn how to make a verb’s potential form. As told earlier by using this form of Japanese verb we can tell the others whether I have the potential of performing this action or not. In other words, "I am able to do…". The object of the sentence or the object of the potential verb is always indicated by the "ga" particle. "Wo/ O" particle is never used; this is a rule which every student should remember. Following is the group wise explanation of how to change the verbs into their potential forms: Group 1 or "Godandoushi": The very first step is to consider the root verb or dictionary form of the verbs. Now, replace all the "u" ending consonants to their respective "e" ending consonants. For example "u", "ku", "su", "tsu", "nu", "hu", "mu", "ru", "gu", "zu", "bu" and "pu" will be replaced by "e", "ke", "se", "te", "ne", "he", "me", "re", "ge", "ze", "be" and "pe" respectively. The final step will be to add "ru" to all the "e" sound ending consonants. This will finally give you the verbs which are in their potential forms. Following is the table which gives you a few examples of how the verbs of group 1 are changed in the potential form.

Japanese potential verb

Group 2 or "Ichidandoushi": In this group similar to group 1 first consider the root verbs or dictionary forms of the verbs. The next step would be to remove "ru" from the dictionary form and replace it by adding "rareru" to it. This is the method by which you will be able to form the potential form of verbs of ichidandoushi verbs. Following is the table showing how to get the potential form of verbs of group 2 using a few verbs as examples:

ichidandoushi Japanese potential verb

Group 3 or "Fukisokudoushi": There are only two verbs in this group and their potential form is very different from the verbs of the other groups. As these verbs do not follow any rules their potential forms have to be learnt as it is.Pay attention at the potential form of the verb "suru". Following are the two verbs and their respective potential forms:

 'suru' form of japanese verb

Now let’s have a look at the following sentences which has made use of the potential forms of the verbs and examples are provided to you for this sentence pattern.

Japanese potential verb - (I can write Hiragana and Katakana.)

japanese potential verb - (Two years old child is able to walk.)

Japanese verbs for JLPT level 4 - (Cars cannot be parked in front of the hospital.)

Japanese verbs
- (My husband came home late last night, so I think that he will not be able to wake up early in the morning.)

Japanese for potential form - (I can drive a car.)

- (I am a bit busy tomorrow and so I will not be able to come here.)

2) We will see the use of "dekimasu" in this sentence pattern. Do not forget that "dekimasu" is the potential form of the verb "suru". "Dekimasu" means "to be able to do, can do". Again in this sentence pattern also the object is indicated by "ga" particle and not by "wo/ o" particle. Hence the main sentence pattern is "…ga dekimasu". This sentence pattern is mostly used when we are asking someone about his/ her ability in dance, music, sports, language etc. basically fields related to arts. Following are two examples in the form of conversation for you to understand the use of "- ga dekimasu":

Example: 1

Japanese version:

 'Dekimasu' potential form of japanese verbs - (Mr. Sari, can you play Tennis?)

Japanese Dekimasu verbs - (I can play just a little.)

English version:

Example: 2

Japanese version:

Japanese verbs of group first - (There are various shops in this area, and it seems to be convenient, isn’t it?)

potential form of verbs - (Yes, but being noisy, I am not able to study.)

3) This form is a little advanced pattern of the above sentence pattern 2. Here we are going to use the root verb or dictionary form of the verb and then will be joining the phrase "- koto ga dekimasu" to it. The phrase has the same meaning as the "reru" or "rareru" form of verbs which means "can do". This form is also used to show the potential of doing something. Below are a few examples of this sentence pattern:

 'rareru' form of japanese verbs - (It is not possible to take photographs here.)

Japanese 'rareru' vergs - (Is it possible to take the book at home?)

'rareru' verbs - (Smoking is not allowed in this library.)

4) When we want to say "without" in Japanese language we use the word phrase "zuni". Basically "zu" means "without" and it is a rule that immediately after "zu" the particle "ni" always has to come. The method of making a word into its "zuni" form is very easy. First change the verb into its "nai" form. Then remove "nai" and replace it by adding "zuni" to it. This rule is applicable to all the three groups. The only verb you have to be careful about is "suru". The "zuni" form of verb "suru" is "sezuni". This pattern is used in both written Japanese as well as in spoken Japanese. Let’s see a few examples related to this sentence pattern:

Japanese 'sezuni' form of verbs - (I came to school without eating breakfast.)

 'sezuni' japanese potential verbs - (Please do not forget to come without the kanji dictionary tomorrow.)

- (He/ She entered the classroom without expressing any greetings.)

5) In the fifth sentence pattern we will learn the use and meaning of the grammar pattern "- you ni narimashita". We have already learnt a similar grammar pattern in the lessons of basic Japanese grammar. "Narimashita" is the past tense form of the verb "naru" which means "to become" or "to change into". The sentence pattern is basically used to show or say that the present condition is not the same as it was earlier; some change has taken place. Always remember that the verb which comes immediately before "you ni naru" is always either in its "root verb or dictionary form" or in its "plain form". Have a look at the following examples:

plain form of japanese verbs - (Now I am able to understand the German language well.)

japanese plain form of verbs - (Ever since I came to Japan, I am able to cook.)

6) The last sentence pattern which we are going to learn is the use of the word "nagara". "Nagara" is used when we want to describe a situation where two actions are taking place simultaneously. In other words when we say "while doing this I do that" in English, the same is said by using "nagara" in Japanese language. The verb which comes immediately before "nagara" ia always used in it "masu base" or "stem" form. It is a general rule that the action to which "nagara" is added is of less importance as compared to the second action to which "nagara" is not added. Following are some sentences which give you an idea as to how "nagara" is used; these sentences are provided to you as examples.

 'nagara' form of japanese potential verb - (He always listens to music while studying.)

Japanese 'nagara' verb - (Every morning, I read the newspaper while drinking tea.)

This is the end of Lesson 6. The main aim of this lesson was to learn the use of the Japanese potential verb and also to learn the way by which we can change the verb into its potential form. The other sentence patterns are equally important to learn as questions related to these forms are asked in you JLPT exam.

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