For example,


Does it imply that “[I] can afford a car”, or “there are cars available on the market”, or is this context dependent (as many things are in Japanese).

If it is context dependent, then how do I be explicit about it?

1 Answer 1


Generally, it is context dependent between afford=can buy because [the subject] has enough money and available=can buy because [the object] is sold.

That said, it should be usually obvious in which sense 買える is used. As for a car, (at least in Japan) it is usually obvious where to buy it, it is odd to mention I can buy a car because it is sold in such and such place (of course, you can devise a contrived situation where it sounds reasonable).

One way to make it clear is to include (the contexts for) the enough money or the place it is sold:

  1. 宝くじが当たったので車が買える
  2. これはあの店で買える

Sentence 1 is to afford and Sentence 2 is available.

  • (Not in the US, so not sure of the mechanics but) such a situation is a real thing that's currently happening in the US. AIUI in the US, some states have laws that make it so that only third-party dealers can sell cars, but Tesla doesn't deal with dealers, so you cannot in general buy Teslas from at any given car shop, making it so that "Teslas can only be bought at such and such places". Or is that not the nuance conveyed here?
    – muru
    Jan 16 at 7:06
  • 1
    @muru Yeah, but I believe (buying a) Tesla is minor enough in Japan that such a sentence is rarely uttered. Also, such a sentence using only more naturally renders in a negative sentence: テスラはX州に行かないと買えない. (you need to go to State X to buy a Tesla)
    – sundowner
    Jan 16 at 10:39

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