What changes, in these phrases? The change is the し for the せ. A friend told me that the second one was better for saying I speak little japanese.



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    A friend told me that the second one was better for saying I speak little japanese >> "I speak little Japanese" (w/o "a") would be 私は日本語がほとんど話せません, whereas 私は少し日本語を話せます would be "I can speak a little Japanese"
    – chocolate
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 22:58

3 Answers 3



I will speak a little Japanese. (starting now)


I can speak a little Japanese. (the ability to speak)

On a side note, a quick grammar fix (leaving word order as is)


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    Although you wrote that it's a grammar fix, native speakers frequently use both が and を. Some discussion: ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/599/599pdf/higasiya.pdf
    – user1478
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 17:18
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    In the Google Japanese Web N-gram corpus, I find 2889 results for 日本語話せます, and 1690 results for 日本語話せます.
    – user1478
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 17:21
  • @snailboat Thanks for that. I'll have a read.
    – paullb
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 2:19
  • Why is が better?
    – Jaume
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 5:43

Just copied & pasted from my half-year-old answer (though the question itself isn't a duplicate):

Though I translated 日本語を話す into "speak Japanese", the verb doesn't have "be able to speak" sense, so every time you have to explicitly use potential form when you question about ability.

日本語が話せますか? Do you speak Japanese?

compared to:

日本語を話しますか? Are you going to speak Japanese?


The second one is the potential form of the verb. I can speak a little Japanese. Although when using the potential, が is usually preferred over を.


Here are some references on the potential form.

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