できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can

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 ()()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 to do
  • (うん)(どう)する do exercise, movement
  • (りょう)()する do the cooking, cook
  • (かい)()する have a conversation, chat


I can cook.

The particle が is omitted in an informal, colloquial context.

Verb in dictionary form+ことが+できる

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
  • 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 ()(のう)(けい), 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.


Puddles form after raining.


A pimple came out on my face.


My schedule was suddenly cancelled and I have some free time.


In 10 minutes we will be ready for the event.


Food is ready!

()()た in the plain form or ()()ました in the polite form, is widely used in the meaning of being ready.


Our company was founded in 1980.


This work will be finished within this week.


I have an engagement.


Things made of wood

A comment on an Origami Tutorial Video:

I did it! It feels good to fold origami after a long time.
()()ました: I did it, I finally finished it


I did it! It feels good to fold origami after a long time.

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.