The potential form of "する" is "できる". However, "~ことができる" can be appended to verbs to create a potential form. Hence, "することができる" can be used as the potential form of "する". While I think there are times this sounds perfectly natural, I wonder if it is grammatically ill-advised, as you are appending the potential form of the verb to the verb to make the potential form of said verb.

The cases where I find it most natural to use "することができる" is when I start off writing or saying something, using the form "~を[NOUN]する" and when turning that into potential form realize it's too late to change the layout of the sentence as I already committed to using "を" (as opposed to "が") and potentially already said "する". Then in hindsight, I feel like the better sentence would have been "[NOUN]ができる".

Is using "することができる" ill-advised? Should it be replaced with other grammatical structures? If so, what are the recommended ways of rephrasing what would otherwise be "することができる"?

Closest related question I could find: ことができる versus V~える form


Is using "することができる" ill-advised?

Short answer:

No. "することができる" is perfectly normal.

Long answer:

If you do a quick search for "することができる" on google, you will find a lot of hits, where some of the main ones are people voicing the same concern. "Is 'することができる' good grammar?". Nonetheless, the fact that you do get over 65 million hits for the term, and that some are from major Japanese organizations, such as the Japan Patent Office and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, signifies that it is used widely. For this fact alone, the phrase should be considered grammatically accepted, if not correct.

Should it be replaced with other grammatical structures? If so, what are the recommended ways of rephrasing what would otherwise be "することができる"?

"することができる" is a very verbose way of saying something, and while being grammatically acceptable, it can easily be replaced with other grammatical structures. Here are some examples of sentences that avoid the grammatical structure and essentially mean the same thing:

Verbose form: "表{ひょう}示{じ}することができる"


  1. 表{ひょう}示{じ}できる
  2. 表{あらわ}せる
  3. 示{しめ}せる
  4. 表{ひょう}示{じ}可{か}能{のう}である
  5. 表{ひょう}示{じ}可{か}
  6. 見{み}せられる
  7. Etcetera...

"することができる" is a grammatical structure that when looked at closely, even has some natives wondering about the validity of its structure, while simultaneously being used ubiquitously. Although verbose, it is correct to use


''することができる'' isn't ill-advised at all.
Generally, you can say ''(verb, dictionary form)~ことができる'' when someone can do something, of course you can say ''することができる''. You don't have to care about duplicating ''する''.

There are many verbs like ''勉{べん}強{きょう}する'', ''質{しつ}問{もん}する'', etc.
These ''する-form verb'' can be appended to ''ことができる'', such as ''勉強することができる'', ''質問することができる'', instead of shorter forms ''勉強できる'', ''質問できる'', although the shorter forms are used more commonly in daily talk than ''することができる''.

(I added more explanation.)

There can be a certain difference between 勉強ができる and 勉強できる。
If you want to say that someone can study, you'd better say 勉強できる, or 勉強することができる.
勉強できる sometimes means that someone is good at studying, has a good record in school; e.g.彼{かれ}の子{こ}供{ども}は勉強ができる。
This usage of 勉強ができる is the same way as スポーツ(サッカー,野{や}球{きゅう},etc.)できる, 英{えい}語{ご}できる. It means not just someone can do something, but also someone is good at something. You have to make out which meaning it has.

All ''[NOUN]ができる'' don't indicate this meaning, 質問できる is absolutely the same as 質問ができる.

  • 1
    This answer is from a native speaker. Could someone please explain the downvotes? As a beginner I can't see what's wrong with this answer. Dec 1 '15 at 19:13
  • @user3856370 I think this is one of the quirks of the Japanese language that not many people, including natives, think about. I assume the downvotes are disagreement-votes. As a beginner, nonetheless, you don't need to worry about using the grammar being brought up in the question too much. It's used (perhaps in excess) by various people. Dec 1 '15 at 22:53

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