Can anyone explain to me why 準備が出来ている means "It's ready?" I don't think I know exactly what 出来ます means, as we initially learned it as "able to"- but I've seen other uses like in saying "I have/got a girlfriend," or "There is a library." (At least, I think the latter, like 図書館が出来た." In any event, I know 準備 is preparation, so the real question is what does 出来ている mean, and why does it mean that?

2 Answers 2


There are two uses of できる:

  1. As a potential form for する, meaning "can do". Like the potential forms of other verbs, it's stative and generally can't appear in the 〜ている form. Compare the ungrammatical English "I am being able to do 〜".

  2. As a verb in its own right, できる means "come into existence, complete, accomplish, perform well", which can have a variety of meanings in different contexts. It can be used for puddles forming, or for making friends, or for being pregnant, or for doing well on a test.

    In this meaning できる isn't a stative verb. It's a punctual verb, and with 〜ている it has a resultative meaning:

    Preparations are complete

    (Punctual verbs are also called achievement verbs.)

  • How did both meanings come to be? Do you think it's likely that the second meaning gave way to the first? Also, why does ている give it that meaning? I thought できた as in Wenzel's answer would be more appropriate, I'm not really sure how ている lends itself to this meaning. I know that something can be completed, or has been completed-why is there a need for a third tense here?
    – user3457
    Jun 14, 2014 at 18:42
  • Also, you said the potential form generally can't appear in the 〜ている form. Do you have a non-example?
    – user3457
    Jun 14, 2014 at 18:43
  • @Anthony That's because potential forms ("can do") are stative, and stative verbs can't appear in ~ている. But you can say (for example) 分かっている. It just forces the listener to reinterpret it as non-stative, so here it would no longer have potential meaning and would instead mean "is currently in the state that results from 分かった". They're reinterpreted as achievement verbs.
    – user1478
    Jun 15, 2014 at 2:31
  • @Anthony Achievement verbs are conceptualized as taking no time at all. That's why the term "punctual" is sometimes used--they take place at a single "point" in time. And so, with ~ている, they have a resultative interpretation: 扉が閉まっている means "the door IS CLOSED", that is, it's in the state that results from being closed at some point in the past. But technically ~ている doesn't always imply ~た--it's possible a door could be closed, even if it's never been open before.
    – user1478
    Jun 15, 2014 at 2:35

出来る (usually written in kana) can take on several different meanings (see e.g. http://tangorin.com/general/出来る for the entire list). Here it means that the preparations "became finished".

In the sentence "図書館ができた", it means that a library was built.

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