9

Can't really understand this form:
I've seen already this form with 考える and translated it like this:

考えうることだ - conceivable (possible)

However how do you translate with other verbs? is this some kind of potential?

1.人生の目的は何かという問題に対してみんなが納得しうる答えを出すのは難しい。

13

Yes, ~うる (or ~える) can be thought of as a potential form. It's an auxiliary that expresses "can", and it attaches to the continuative form (連用形) of a verb. That's the same form of the verb you use before the polite auxiliary ~ます, so we get forms like these:

  ある   →  ありうる  
  考える  →  考えうる  
  する   →  しうる  

In kanji, this verb is written 得る, but in this auxiliary usage it's often written in kana.

As an independent verb 得{う}る is now uncommon—得{う} became 得{え}る in modern Japanese. But as an auxiliary expressing potentiality, both ~うる and ~える are common, though ~うる may sound a little older/more literary than ~える.

Most conjugated forms besides ~うる itself begin with ~え, not ~う. So although you'll see both ありえる and ありうる commonly enough, you'll only see ありえない and ありえて, never *ありうない or *ありうて.

  • Um. “Can do” is しうる or なしうる? I think the latter is common. – Yang Muye May 15 '14 at 13:49
  • 1
    @YangMuye I used しうる as an example because it's in the OP's question (in construction with 納得{なっとく} in 納得しうる). – snailcar May 15 '14 at 13:51
4

It's a variant reading of 得る【える】, and is used to indicate possibility. The most common place I've seen this construction is in ありうる (or more frequently, the frustrated exclamation ありえない!, which is along the lines of "It can't be!").

If it has any additional nuances beyond simple possibility, I'm afraid I'll have to leave that to a native speaker to clarify.

  • 4
    As for the nuance, 考えうることだ / 納得しうる答え sound more literary and formal than 考えられることだ / 納得できる答え. – user1016 May 16 '14 at 0:23

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