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!!
"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.
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.