Conjugating Verbs to Potential Form

    • Verb
    • Conjugation Form
    The potential form is a type of Japanese verb form that often ends in 〜られる. As the name suggests, it is used to express possibility or the ability to do something.

    What Is the Potential Form?

    The potential form is a type of Japanese verb form. To express the potentiality or ability to do something, Japanese verbs are conjugated into this form in Japanese instead of getting attached to things like "can" or "to be able to" in English.

    In this post, we'll focus on how to conjugate verbs into the potential form. If you are looking for more details about its meanings and functions, check out this page!

    Godan  → 会える
     → 立てる
     → 写せる
    代わ → 代われる
     → 書ける
     → 泳げる
     → 死ねる
     → 学べる
     → 休める
    Ichidan
    (ら抜き言葉)
    食べ → 食べられる (食べれる)
    起き → 起きられる (起きれる)
    閉じ → 閉じられる (閉じれる)
    Irregular 来るく  →  来られるこ    ( 来れるこ  )
    する → できる

    Godan Verbs

    For godan verbs, you conjugate the ending vowel 〜う to 〜える to make it potential form.

    Let's try conjugating the verb 買う (to buy) into its potential form (because it's such a good feeling when you're able to buy something). 買う (kau) becomes 買える (kaeru). This one was easy because 買う ends in the vowel う as is.

     + え + る = 買える

    Let's take a look at another example. What about 読む (to read)? You would want to conjugate 読む (yomu) into 読める (yomeru).

     + え + る = 読める

    In case you prefer to learn conjugation with a hiragana chart, you look at う line for the ending of the verb in dictionary form. Then you replace it with the one from the え line. So if we take our example 買う, you can see that the う changes to え, giving us 買え. After that, you attach る to the end, giving you 買える. The same with 読む. You look for む first because it's the original ending. Then look for what's there in its え line—you'll find め. After you get 読め, then る is attached to become 読める.

    Ichidan Verbs

    For ichidan verbs, you just replace the る ending with られる, which is actually the same as for the passive form! For example, 食べ (to eat) becomes 食べられる in its potential form, which is important to know for those of us who constantly wonder if things around us are edible or not.

    食べ + られる = 食べられる

    The rules are simple, but be aware that in real life, people often omit the ら part. Many kids these days (and even those who are not so young) say 食べれる instead of 食べられる. This phenomenon is called ら抜き言葉, literally meaning "taking ら off words." While the usage of ら抜き has been controversial, the trend is becoming more of a new standard.

    Irregular Verbs

    As for irregular verbs, the potential form of る (to come) is られる. As you might have guessed from the られる ending, you will see people using ら抜き言葉 form, れる, quite often.

    する (to do) becomes a totally-different-looking one—できる.