The sentence in a translation:

While looking at the future, one cannot see how to connect the dots.

My assumption is that the following is the "base" sentence. Then, to add meaning, a is placed before the . Maybe it adds emphasis (or something)?


I don't think I've ever seen a and then have a placed behind it to add meaning.

However, if the "base" sentence should be thought of as:


Then I am ok with regard to particles. Placing a after a seems pretty common.


2 Answers 2


The に form is the "base" sentence here, and the は is added for emphasis.

One key to understanding how できる happens grammatically is that できる is often describing the thing that can be done, instead of the people or things doing the thing. Sometimes a closer gloss is doable rather than can -- English can describes the people or things doing the thing, while doable describes the thing that can be done.

In your sample sentence, the topic is こと, and all the stuff to the left of こと tells us what kind of こと it is. The できません applies to this こと -- this こと is not doable -- and the 皆 here tells us who or what this こと is not doable by.


The grammar for できる is at least partially attributable to the historical development of the term. See this other post for details.

  • Are there any other verbs that act like this?
    – sazarando
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 6:20
  • 3
    Several; but, they only seem odd because the standard English translations are adapted to use natural English words. For example, 私には日本語が分かる is naturally translated as "I understand Japanese", but literally it's more like "Japanese is clear/understandable to me".
    – Nick O.
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 9:18
  • Thank you for the write-up. So is this "に" compulsive or optional? Both "私はできる" and "私にはできる" seem quite common, but in op's example the "に" seems compulsive. I'm really confused about when it can be omitted.
    – Betty
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 8:06

Reason for using「は」

The「は」provides contrast. It provides an unspoken (in English) and contrasting parenthetical context as shown below.


  • Not everyone can read and write Japanese (but some people can)
  • Not just anyone can read and write Japanese (but many people can)
  • Not all of (you) can read and write Japanese (but some of you can)
  • Not all of (them) can read and write Japanese (but some of them can)

Reason for using「に」

The reason for this is that できる is describing the "possession" or "existence" of a capability to do something.


So just as you would say,


to describe the existence of things at a location,
you also use the same construction to talk about the existence of ability in a person.

あなたにはできる」 or 「わたしにはできない」

Taking a cue from Eiríkr Útlendi's answer, you could think of the here as marking an ability possessed by a person.

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