In English I think there is a subtle difference between "there's a possibility we'll win" and "there's a possibility we can win". I think the former implies "if things keep going as they are now, we might win" while the latter implies "if we start trying extra extra hard (or do something else differently) we might be able to win".

Is there a similar difference in Japanese?

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    As a native English speaker I'm not at all convinced by that distinction, but I'm certainly interested to know the Japanese perspective. – user3856370 Oct 30 '16 at 8:56

Using potential form is not preferred when you have to be objective, for example:

機械学習を用いてAチームとBチームが勝つ可能性を統計学的に分析しました。 We employed machine learning technique and statistically analyzed the possibility that Team A and Team B win.

勝てる naturally carries a "we wanna win" overtone, so excited players would probably use 勝てる可能性 a lot more often during a game. In a briefing before a game, 勝てる is usually preferred, too, but 勝つ可能性 may be fine.

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Methinks you think too much. Each of the phrases means what it says, no more or no less: "a possibility [we] will win" and "a possibility [we] can win", respectively (just like you said). I think it's best to leave it at that. Those implications that you suspect are inherent in each are in fact external and part of context.

Both 勝つ and 勝てる fit equally well in the following sentence :

このまま行けば、私たちが{勝つ/勝てる}可能性はある。 If things keep going as they are, there's a possibility that we {will/can win}.

And so do they in this next one too:

今よりもっともっと頑張れば、私たちが{勝つ/勝てる}可能性はある 。If we start trying extra extra hard, there'll be a possibility that we {will/can win}.

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  • So you would say they are equivalent? – Aurast Oct 30 '16 at 22:14
  • I wouldn't. Though they fit in the example sentences equally well, they aren't exactly semantic equivalents. One is the non-past and the other is the potential form, with different ranges of possible meanings and nuances. The implications you mentioned aren't included in these ranges. – goldbrick Oct 31 '16 at 7:44

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