The verb できる (
dekiru) means can, to be able to, to be good at, to be able to do something; it is a verb related to the
ability to do something, the skill and the capacity.
In this post we learn more about the meaning of できる, how it is formed and when できる is used through real example sentences.
できる has also a number of meanings beyond the potential form and the translations vary depending on circumstances and context.
How できる is formed
The transcription in kanji of できる is 出来る.
The first form we see is the use of a noun combined with the verb できる.
This form is applied especially to those verbs that some grammars call compounds of suru and are formed by:
- noun + する
- 運動する do exercise, movement
- 料理する do the cooking, cook
- 会話する have a conversation, chat
I can cook.
The particle が is omitted in an informal, colloquial context.
Another very common use includes:
- the verb in plain form and in the present tense
- joined to the noun こと (thing, fact, event)
- the particle が
- and the verb できる
⇨ I can, I am able to perform, to accomplish the fact of ...
Difference between ができる and ことができる
I can drive.
I can drive.
The two sentences have the same meaning and are grammatically correct.
In a formal context the complete form verb + ことができる is used; e.g. in official documents mentioning legal regulations or in contracts.
How and when to use できる
The structure containing できる expresses the ability and capacity to do something. In Japanese it belongs to the 可能形, the potential forms.
The various forms used are:
- できない negative plain form of できる
- できます is the polite form in masu
- できません the negative of the polite form in masu
James is able to swim more than 5 km.
It also expresses the possibility to do something: we are given the opportunity to do that action, we have permission, it is possible to do it, we are allowed.
In this restaurant you can pay by credit card.
Earphones are essential in libraries as sound is not allowed.
The sentence with ことができる in the negative form literally:
No sound can be produced.
Wi-Fi is available in this Cafe.
Various meanings and translations of できる
As we have anticipated, できる has a number of meanings that vary depending on the context, the situation and which we adapt in our mother tongue.
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できるだけ, as much as possible
できるだけ is a commonly used expression in Japanese and means: everything possible, as much as possible, the best that can be done.
Tomorrow morning (you have to get up) early, so go to bed as early as possible!
I intend to contribute to your project as much as I can.
A synonym of できるだけ is なるべく.
I will deal with the matter as soon as possible.
Similar grammar points in Japanese 📚