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What is the difference between the two following sentences?

Fred san wa Nihongo o hanaseru

Fred san wa Nihongo de hanaseru

Right now, I think the first using wo, is probably saying Fred can speak Japanese while the second one is saying he can speak using Japanese. Is this correct? Which is most natural?

1 Answer 1

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I'm not a native speaker, but I think both are grammatical and natural depending on the context.


(A) フレッドさんは日本語話せる

Fred can speak Japanese

Because the object of 話せる is a language, it means 'to be able to speak that language.'

(B) フレッドさんは日本語話せる

Fred can speak in Japanese

By using で, it means 'to be able to speak using that language.' で marks the means, that is, the way something is done.

Note that 言う can be used as well, but the meaning is different.

フレッドさんは日本語言える

Fred can say it in Japanese.

A may be uttered as a response to 'Can Fred speak Japanese?' On the other hand, B may be uttered as a response to 'Can Fred speak in Japanese? I'm having a hard time understanding what he's saying in English.'

Another example with で:

まだ英語でうまく話せません

I'm not good at speaking English yet.

Jisho.org

A literal translation for the above would be 'I can't skillfully speak English yet.'

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