できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N5]

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N5]'

Anna Baffa Volpe

5 min reading time

Updated on 17 January 2023

できる (dekiru) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N5]

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.

Noun++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

(りょう)()()()る。

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

(うん)(てん)することができる。

I can drive.

(うん)(てん)ができる。

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

ジェームスさんは5km()(じょう)(およ)ぐことができます。

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.

このレストランではクレジットカードで()(はら)うことができます。

In this restaurant you can pay by credit card.

()(しょ)(かん)では(おと)()すことができないので、イヤホンは(ひっ)()()えます。

Earphones are essential in libraries as sound is not allowed.

The sentence with ことができる in the negative form literally:

(おと)()すことはできない。

No sound can be produced.

この(きっ)()(てん)ではWi-Fiを使(つか)うことができます。

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.

明日(あした)(あさ)(はや)いんだから、できるだけ(はや)()なさい!

Tomorrow morning (you have to get up) early, so go to bed as early as possible!

()()るだけ貴方(あなた)のプロジェクトに(こう)(けん)するつもりです。

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.

その(けん)については、なるべく(はや)(たい)(おう)します。

I will deal with the matter as soon as possible.

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