6

So I was watching the Pokemon Super Bowl Commercial, and around :40 seconds in I hear the phrase

ぼくにも出来る

Now I know it basically means "I can also do that", but what is the function of the に particle here? Wouldn't ぼくも出来る hold the same meaning still?

  • 1
    I have always wondered why online Japanese lessons don't tell you to use に with things like できる, and ある and いる (when they mean 'to have'). While you will find them both with and without に, the version with に seems more common in my experience - and I think it's considered more proper. – Aeon Akechi Jan 30 '16 at 18:18
  • @user12399 I always thought of it as meaning 'for'. It is possible even/also for me. – user3856370 Jan 30 '16 at 18:39
4

1)「ボクにもできる。」

2) "I can also do that."

While those two sentences may be good "translations" for each other, they are structured very differently. It is, indeed, "translation" that often gets in the way of understanding things between the two languages.

The English sentence clearly has a grammatical subject in "I", but the subject is unmentioned in the Japanese sentence. 「ボク」 is not the subject of sentence #1, believe it or not.

「ボクにもできる。」 literally means "~~ is doable for me, too."

The ~~ part is just not mentioned because it is understood between the speaker and listener from the larger context/situation. If one is to actually mention and use it in the sentence, one would say:

「ボクにも~~ができる。」

Notice that 「ボク」 is still not the subject of that sentence; 「~~」 is. It is saying "~~ is doable for me, too.", but only for the sake of naturalness of the translated English sentence, one might use "I can also do ~~", "I can do ~~, too", etc.

Long preface, I know, but from my experience with Japanese-learners, I just know how common this misunderstanding is among them.

Thus, 「に」 is like "to" or "for" as in "X is Y to/for me" in English. Once again, this 「に」 does not mark the subject.

This 「に」 is the signature particle used in phrases such as:

「Person + に + わかる/できる/[見]{み}える/[言]{い}える, etc.」

Finally, the 「も」 is there for emphasis. It means "even" here.

In essence, the original sentence literally means:

"~~ is doable even for me."

| improve this answer | |
  • Even though it's not marked by が, it does behave like a subject in multiple ways: (1) 自分 binds to it, e.g., 「太郎に自分の手書きが読める。」「太郎に花小が自分の先生に引きあわせられる。」, (2) it can fill in the missing subject of an adjunct subordinate clause, e.g, 「テレビを見ながら太郎に本が読める。」, (3) 尊敬語 can refer to it, e.g., 「先生にその問題がお分かりになる。」. ---- And for each of these three things, the argument that is marked by が doesn't behave like a subject in that way -- i.e., 自分 cannot bind to it, it can't fill in a missing subject, and 尊敬語 can't refer to it. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 31 '16 at 3:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.