I am in my fourth online Japanese class at UMUC Asia and we just started learning about potential form of verbs. I was wondering if there is an easy way to explain what it is? My teacher's explanation was not helpful and I cannot find any easy way to explain so I am stuck. Any help is greatly appreciated!!

  • 1
    Can you provide some examples to illustrate your problem? Mar 22, 2016 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


"Potential" refers to the potential to do a verb. For example: you can read, I can speak, we are able to see.

In English we normally use the auxiliary verbs "able" and "can" but in Japanese the verbs inflect for case and is prescribed as mentioned by Yuuichi Tam.

  • 1
    Yep! Except able is an adjective, not an auxiliary verb, and Japanese verbs inflect, but not for case. You can call be able to a periphrastic modal, if you like.
    – user1478
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:32

Potential form in Japanese has two patterns. One is that you use verbal auxiliary "れる、られる" which means potential like 食べられる.

Another is that you use potential verbs. When 五段活用 verbs change to 下一段活用 verbs, they sometimes become potential verbs and they are called 可能動詞. For example, when a 五段活用 verb 書く changes to a 下一段活用 verb 書ける, it become a potential verb of 書く.

  • I think the question may have been about the meaning of the potential form, not how to form it. It's a bit ambiguous.
    – oals
    Mar 22, 2016 at 7:22
  • Really? The meaning of potential is "can"'," be able to", "できる" in Japanese. isn't it? Mar 22, 2016 at 7:28

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