~ことができる vs. Potential form 〜られる・れる

I have no excuse for not studying Japanese other than my laziness. My grammar text book was untouched for God knows how many days. However, all was not lost. I did remember to visit Memrise and learn a few words everyday. The sticky notes on my wall are a proof of that.

Anyway, I had a lot of time on my hands today. So instead of heading over to Youtube and ruin my day, I decided to open my book and start studying. Today I studied how to say “to be able/ possible to” using ことができる and the potential form of verbs.

~ことができる/ ことができない

This means “To be/ not to be able to” do something. It uses the plain form of verbs.

Potential forms 

I group : The ‘u’ line from the hiragana chart shifts to ‘e’ line in the potential form

Eg: 1)いうーーーー> いえる

2)まつーーーー> まてる

3)作るーーーー> 作れる

II group: The ‘ru’ changes to ‘rareru’

Eg: 1) 見るーーーー>見られる

III group: するーーーーー>できる

くるーーーーー>こられる

The potential forms of the verbs are not only used for passive voice but also to mean ‘To be able/ possible to’

The difference 

Now, although they might look like the mean the same thing, they do have certain differences.

  • ことができる is for things one cannot control. You’re not responsible for it and you cannot do anything about it

whereas Potential forms are used for thing that are under one’s control. You’re responsible for it, you choose whether or not to do it.

Examples can be found here and here.

  • ことができる may translate to being able to do something [since there are no physical ailments that can prevent one from doing it].

Potential forms may translate to can [since I do not have anything else on my plate right now].

 

 

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