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How does the structure (potential form + ように) meaning "in order to do something in the future" differ from できるように "have the ability to do something in the future"?

For example:

たくさんことばが覚えられるように、日本語の本を読んでいます。
In order to learn a lot of words, I am reading books in Japanese.

How does this differ from:

たくさんことばが覚えることができるように、日本語の本を読んでいます。

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    They are the same except that the latter should be ことば を 覚えることが.
    – user4092
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 22:27
  • As @user4092 said. In the top version, 覚えられる is a descriptive verb meaning more like "to be memorizable", which describes a quality of the words -- which is why we have ことば (as the subject of the descriptive verb). In the bottom version, 覚える is an active verb meaning "to memorize", which describes the action of the agent in the sentence (presumably the speaker) doing something with the words -- which is why we should have ことば (as the object of the active verb). Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:40
  • Separately, I'm not a native speaker, but putting たくさん on the front like this sounds odd to me. It seems more natural to put that just before the verb (覚える or 覚えられる), since たくさん here effectively acts as an adverb. Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:40
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    @Eiríkr たくさんことばが覚えられる、ことばがたくさん覚えられる、たくさんことばを覚えることができる、ことばをたくさん覚えることができる... sound okay to me
    – chocolate
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 0:04
  • @chocolate, 「native-speaker sanity check」ありがとうございます。(^^) たまには頭の中に迷子になってしまいます。😄 Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:11

2 Answers 2

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ことばが/を覚えられるように and ことば覚えることができるように have no "meaning" difference. You are literally saying the same thing. But it is far more natural to use the potential form + ように to describe wanting to be able to do something as a reason for why you are doing some other thing.

「友達と一緒に遊べるように泳ぐ練習をしています」 is more fluid and natural sounding than 「。。。遊ぶことができるように」 in that sentence. Think of it like the difference between saying: "so that I will be able to play" vs the more natural: "so I can play".

「ができる」, on the other hand, is most often used on its own, to make a special point of explaining something that you can do. For example, a sentence like 「私はピアノを弾くことができる」 is a simple declaration of ability. This is by far the most common usage of the 「ができる」 pattern.

I have heard 「V+ことができるように。。。」 before, but it's rare, and as far as I can tell it's used mostly to strongly emphasize striving for the ability to do something, where that ability is the main goal... the difference between "studying Japanese so I can understand it" and "studying Japanese so I'll be able to understand my wife's parents".

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Disclaimer: credits to @user4092 and @Eiríkr Útlendi


They are the same, except that the latter should be ことば 覚えることが.

In the top version, 覚えられる is a descriptive verb meaning more like "to be memorizable", which describes a quality of the words, which is why we have ことば (as the subject of the descriptive verb):

ことば覚えられるように

In the bottom version, 覚える is an active verb meaning "to memorize", which describes the action of the agent in the sentence (presumably the speaker) doing something with the words, which is why we should have ことば (as the object of the active verb):

ことば 覚えることができるように

Separately, putting たくさん on the front like this sounds odd. It seems more natural to put that just before the verb (覚える or 覚えられる), since たくさん here effectively acts as an adverb.

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    ことばを覚えられるように is correct too.
    – user4092
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 2:53

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