1

Given the following sentence structure, I am wondering how one differentiates the usage of 出る in the following.

明日のパーティーに出られますか?

The usage of the partial に and the られる suggests a honorific passive conjugation Will you attend tomorrow's party?, but by the same token, I suppose it could be the potential Are you able to attend tomorrow's party?

Also, how would this change if it was simply:

明日のパーティーに出ますか?

2

This probably isn't the answer you were looking for, but: it has to be differentiated using context (via. the subject of the sentence, as well as circumstance).

While this is probably pretty obvious, to break it out a little:

  • If you say 「(太郎さん、)明日のパーティーに出られますか?」 to your coworker 太郎, it is pretty unambiguously the potential.
  • If you say 「(先生、)明日のパーティーに出られますか?」 to your teacher, it is ambiguous.

This type of ambiguity is quite often resolved by context though (as one might expect):

「太郎はパーティーに出るけど、次郎先生はどうかな。」
「次郎先生もパーティーに出られる。」

「明日のパーティ、誰が出ますか?」
「次郎先生が出られます。」

A point here is that, in the cases it is ambiguous, it is often not ambiguous in a way that particularly matters:

  • "No I can't" logically implies "no I won't"
  • "Yes I will" logically implies "yes I can"
  • "Yes I can" usually suggests "yes I will" unless specifically stated otherwise
  • "No I won't" is probably the hardest response to deal with if you were asking about capability, and in this case you would probably just ask for clarification.

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