Suppose I wanted to say to someone, "Can you solve this question?" According to my Memrise app and some Google results, this is the model sentence:

(1) この問題が解けますか。

Since potential ("can") is involved, shouldn't the Japanese sentence be:

(2) この問題が解けられますか。

Perhaps the literal meaning of (1) is "Will this question be in a solved state?", similar to ドアがしまりますか。Is the (automatic, maybe) door going to be closed? Perhaps this literal meaning is widely taken to mean "Can you solve this question?"

I've asked a similar question about dictionary form vs potential form, but due to the limited context of that question, I would like to know if the dictionary form can be used as the potential form in general.

  • 1
    Related: "Unsolvable problem" – Flaw May 5 '16 at 10:53
  • Thanks, that cleared things up a lot. Perhaps in general, the potential form of an intransitive verb shouldn't be used? – rhyaeris May 5 '16 at 11:29
  • +1 A good question. I have never thought of. – Kentaro May 5 '16 at 23:46
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Flaw May 6 '16 at 17:08

(2) is unnatural because 解ける is the potential verb of 解く and it already means potential.

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. In this case, a 五段活用 verb 解く changes to a 下一段活用 verb 解ける, and it becomes the potential verb of 解く.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Ah, I kept reading 解ける as an intransitive verb. So it seems that in this case 解ける is the potential form of the transitive verb 解く. Thanks! – rhyaeris May 5 '16 at 11:28
  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – snailplane May 6 '16 at 8:53

In summary

Although some dictionary forms happen to share an identical form as the potential form of another verb, the dictionary form of a verb cannot be used as the potential form.

As for 解けられる.

i. When it's combination of the potential form of 解く and られる voice, it's morphologically impossible.

ii. When it's combination of intransitive 解ける and られる voice

  1. potential: This time, it's morphologically possible but still ungrammatical because 解ける is not used as a volitional intransitive verb so far, in other words, it's always an involitional intransitive verb, which doesn't have the potential form to begin with.
  2. passive: It's fine. e.g. 氷に解けられては困る (We'll be in trouble if the ice melts)
  3. honorific: In theory possible, aside from weirdness. e.g. 人魚姫は海に溶けられた (Princess Mermaid melted into the sea)
| improve this answer | |

This is a complementary answer, since it looks like Yuuichi seems to be not answering your question perfectly.

Since potential ("can") is involved, shouldn't the Japanese sentence be:

(2) この問題が解けられますか。

Actually, it could be Yes.

(2) could be either of the below of the らぬき言葉’s one of the derivatives,




(2). To show your reverence :

Example : ( In the lab, a person looking at the change of the layout of the utensils for experiments have been changed, said )


"The professor has changed them."

(3).To express the spontaneity.

Exmple : ( a person ) looking at the chart of the sales, said,


"It would be estimated in spring the sales might increase"

Here, your question, (2), seems to me to fit with the example (2), to show the reverence, and some or even I could say many are using your (2).

So, in another word, in English it could express,

"Will you solve this question, ( talking to your boss or teacher etc )?"

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    If this られる in この問題が解けられますか is used as potential and you say it is natural, I don't agree with you. – Yuuichi Tam May 6 '16 at 4:12
  • ^ @YuuichiTam いえ、尊敬の意味で(to show the reverence)、「この問題が解けられますか」は多くの人に使われている(many are using your (2))だそうですよ。 – Chocolate May 6 '16 at 6:28
  • 1
    @Kentaro Tomono If this られる is used as the reverence, it may make sense but I don't know. And I don't think it is commonly. – Yuuichi Tam May 6 '16 at 7:19
  • @YuuichiTam Yes, it makes sense. But "many are using" was too exaggerated. – Kentaro May 6 '16 at 7:54

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.