For example, repairable, usable, etc.

I tried a few in deepl and got a mixture of potential, 用, and 可能.

My first thought was that it would involve passive, but I guess not.

Is there a single method that's acceptable for all verbs, or at least common?


One useful and common option is to use the potential form of godan and ichidan verbs, and できる for the noun+する constructions (できる is the potential form of する). For example:

usable 使える (potential form of 使う), 使用できる (potential form of する). This translates as 'can use'.

repairable 直せる (potential form of 直す), 修理できる (potential form of する). This translates as 'can repair'.

This keeps the sentences in the active form, which is a common way of expressing this concept in Japanese.

  • Awesome, thank you. So ‷「それは修理できていますか」 should be "is it fixable," 「この車が運転できているの?」 is "is this car drivable," 「あのパソコンは使えていないです」 is "that computer isn't usable," etc. Accurate? – charlemagne May 29 '20 at 11:12
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    No, those aren't correct usages. First, I wouldn't recommend trying to directly transfer a concept from English to Japanese where there isn't an exact match (as in this case). As you mentioned, "-able" can be translated in different ways in Japanese, depending on the context. For example, with "that computer isn't usable" , what is the context? Is it broken? Is it too old? Is it the wrong type for the task? You could provide context for why you can't use it. e.g. このパソコンは壊れていて使えません. As for "is it fixable?", you could keep it in an active form and ask 修理できますか (Can you fix it?). To keep it simple – kandyman May 29 '20 at 11:32
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    できている refers to a state whereby the action has been completed or is in the process of being done. 修理できていますか is asking "have the repairs been completed?" ie are the repairs in a current state of being complete? – kandyman May 29 '20 at 11:37
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    Apologies if my comments were not clear. ている roughly corresponds to 'ing' in transitive Japanese verbs and 'state of ...' for intransitive Japanese verbs. 壊れる is an instransitive verb, giving 壊れている the meaning "a state of being broken". できる is a special case because it is already the potential form of する. In other words, 使用できる is already in a potential format and so doesn't need a further ている to make it express potentiality or state. – kandyman May 29 '20 at 13:18
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    Yes, in English, "-able" describes a state. And you can use potential forms in Japanese to describe states (although that isn't the only usage, obviously). As for the difference between ないです and ません that is a different matter. I think you will find the following thread useful: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/2574/… – kandyman May 29 '20 at 14:10

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