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Not sure if this question is opinion based, but I think it's worth trying to ask.

Can native/fluent speakers easily distinguish the sound difference between the polite and potential forms of a verb in normal speech e.g. 行きます versus 行けます?

Is it perhaps the change of particle from を to が or the context the conversation that helps to determine the meaning rather than the pronunciation of the verb? Are there ever situations where this is confusing and you have to ask the speaker to repeat or rephrase what they said?

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Yes. A native speaker can easily hear this.

If you're a native English speaker, then this distinction is hard for us to hear in positions we perceive as an unaccented syllable. But, note how we easily hear the differences between bid and bed and bead and bade. And though these sounds are rather different from the Japanese i and e, nevertheless, the distinction is clearly heard.

As English speaking learners of Japanese, this difference eventually becomes easily heard: your brain learns to notice the difference since the meaning is significant.

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