Are 「〜のは欲しい」 and 「〜のは出来る」 valid alternatives to 「〜たい」and 「られる」conjugations for desire and potential form? If so, what's the difference?

Examples: If 見れる means "can see," does 見るのは出来る mean the same? If so, is there a difference in nuance?

  • 1
    Are you taking a class? Were you taught to say 見れる for "can see"?
    – chocolate
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 8:07
  • We have to admit that みれる is more common than みられる(, たべれる is marginal and しんじれる is less common).
    – user4092
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:23
  • I think this is a great question for English speakers it seems more natural to phrase it this way, before really internalizing the usage of ~たい and ~られる forms. Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 22:08
  • @user4092, FWIW, in the Tōhoku where I lived for half of 1994 (more specifically, Morioka), the potential forms for 下一段活用動詞 were strictly the ら抜き forms. So 食【た】べれる or 信【しん】じれる were not "marginal", but rather were "t̲h̲e̲ forms to use". That said, if my memory is correct, folks used 見【み】える instead of 見【み】れる. Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


No, 見るのはできる is not a valid alternative. However, you can say 見ることができる is, and it's an alternative form. A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, page 201 says this about the difference:

【Related Expression】

A shorter potential form of verb, i.e., rareru² can replace the longer potential form koto ga dekiru without a change in basic meaning. Thus, Examples (a), (b) and (c) can be rewritten as [1], [2] and [3], respectively.

[1] 新幹線に乗れば大阪まで三時間で行ける
Shinkansen ni noreba Ōsaka made sanjikan de ikeru.
[2] 小田は六つの時バッハが/を弾けた
Oda wa muttsu no toki Bahha ga / o hiketa.
[3] ジョンソンさんは日本語で手紙が書ける
Jonson-san wa nihongo de tegami ga kakeru.

Basically, the difference between the shorter and the longer potential form is one of style; namely, the shorter version is more colloquial and less formal than the longer one.

Note that は here is incorrect.

As for 欲しい, this is also wrong. The only similar construction would be using ほしい as a auxiliary, like so:


But this means a completely different thing; it acts as a request for someone else to eat fish. Note that this request is inappropriate if the listener is a higher status than you.

欲しい as a non-auxiliary is only used when you want something, as in:

"I want a stuffed animal"

たい is the only appropriate construction for expressing the desire to take an action.


No. However, you can rephrase 見れる as 見ることができる, and substitute の for こと like 聞くことはできない。しかし、見るのはできる, though I'd not necessarily recommend that method. In addition, presence or absence of は makes difference.

As for the difference between ~のは欲しい, for example, そうじするのは欲しい means "I want one to clean up", opposed 掃除したい, which is "I want to clean up".

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