I've been listening to this memetic song for quite a bit, but recently I was thinking perhaps the title could be inaccurate. Shouldn't it be "Airman wo Taoserarenai"?

There are 2 points I have to make here:

One, たおせない means "to not beat/defeat" when the song clearly sings about not being able to defeat Airman, which would be expressed by the negative potential form of 倒せる: 倒せられない.

Two, the object is エアーマン, not the player, so エアーマン needs a を instead of a が, right?

Am I on the mark on these two counts?


More on the song: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Man_ga_Taosenai

  • The expressions for potential and passive forms are never fully distinguished; られる still holds the double meaning even today , and in older forms of the language this was probably only more common. The use of が for direct object is most probably generalized here from the passive sense of the same expression.
    – Derpius
    Dec 2, 2015 at 12:54
  • 1
    Apologies, I mistakenly thought that 倒れる was the dictionary form. Turns out 倒す is the dictionary form, which would mean 倒せる for potential and 倒せない for negative potential. Passive would be 倒される and negative passive would be 倒されない. This means that られる confusion is absent in the title above. Many thanks for the reply though!
    – rhyaeris
    Dec 2, 2015 at 14:47
  • But Airman is like the easiest boss, even with the Mega Buster...
    – istrasci
    Dec 2, 2015 at 16:48
  • Maybe see 可能表現の対象格標示「ガ」と「ヲ」の交替 by 青木ひろみ (2008).
    – user1478
    Dec 2, 2015 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


'Not defeat' is 倒さない, not 倒せない. 倒せない means 'not be able to defeat'. As for が vs を, the potential form ('be able to', 'can') is traditionally used with が, I think in either of the following manners: 僕にはエアーマンが倒せない, or 僕はエアーマンが倒せない, but it's becoming more and more frequent to use it with を like this: 僕はエアーマンを倒せない.

  • Thanks, this has been really helpful! However, after a bit of Googling, I thought perhaps 僕に/が エアーマンが 倒せない should have a は in front instead? To me it makes sense that 僕 should be the topic, rather than a subject (が) or a target (に) - 僕は エアーマンが 倒せない. The following examples show a は and a が, and were taken from learn-japanese-adventure.com/potential-form.html 兄は泳げます。 My elder brother can swim. 母は日本料理が作れます。 My mother can cook Japanese dish. 弟は自転車に乗れます。 My younger brother can ride the bicycle.
    – rhyaeris
    Dec 2, 2015 at 15:00
  • @rhyaeris I only used が because は replaces が; a relative clause would have 僕が倒せないエアーマン, but the main clause would be 僕はエアーマンが倒せない. It's a little complicated to elaborate.
    – Angelos
    Dec 2, 2015 at 15:06
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    僕はエアーマンが倒せない is more natural, than 僕が~. You explaining エアーマン, 僕が倒せないエアーマン is correct because 僕 isn't the subject.
    – Toshihiko
    Dec 2, 2015 at 15:31
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    As a dependent noun phrase, 僕で/にエアーマンが倒せない(こと)
    – Derpius
    Dec 2, 2015 at 15:32
  • 3
    ^「僕エアーマンが倒せない」「僕エアーマンが倒せないこと」 はおかしいです。
    – chocolate
    Dec 2, 2015 at 16:59

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