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One day a friend of mine told me my usage of 合える人 is grammatically incorrect but when I check on the internet, I see we can use the potential form with 合う.

I want to say that I can potentially get along with a person.

Why is it wrong? Which rule am I breaking?

1 Answer 1

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(According to web searches,) there is a distinction called 意志動詞 and 無意志動詞. The former denotes the verbs that express voluntary actions.

The rule is that there is no potential form for 無意志動詞, which 合う in 気が合う belongs to.

For comparison, 分かり合う is a voluntary action, so 分かり合える is fine.

(Another confusing element may be the English "get along", which may well be understood as a voluntary action.)


Another example may be instructive (partially from the link above).

  • 医者になる → 医者になれる
  • 春になる → 春になれる

To be a doctor is something one does at her own will, but the coming of spring is not. Hence the difference.

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  • So, to express 'could get along with', would one say "気が合う機能性がある" or something of the sort?
    – Basil
    Aug 9 at 15:13
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    How about 気が合いそう
    – rjh
    Aug 9 at 20:03
  • Thank you! I'm always confused about the voluntary action verbs... In French or English we use the potential form for non-voluntary action verbs too, as a possibility. I've never seen a book explaining which form to use in this case. @rjh 's answer is what I'd use next but that requires an effort to change the way we think.
    – Alexis
    Aug 9 at 23:12
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    @Robin 気が合いそう may be the most idiomatic while 気が合う可能性がある/気が合うかもしれない are possible.
    – sundowner
    Aug 9 at 23:13
  • @sundowner Thanks! I thought 気が合いそう might be more natural but was directly translating "^^
    – Basil
    Aug 10 at 8:28

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