ことができる (koto ga dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'ことができる (koto ga dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can'

Anna Baffa Volpe

ことができる (koto ga dekiru) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Can

The expression ことができる (koto ga dekiru) means can, be able to do something.

It is one of the potential forms in Japanese and expresses the ability and possibility to do something.

In this post we learn more about the meaning of ことができる, how it is formed and when ことができる is used through real example sentences.

How ことができる is formed

ことができる is formed:

  • by the noun こと that means thing, matter
  • by the particle が that indicates the subject of the sentence
  • by the verb ()()be able and its polite form ()()ます

できる is the potential form of the verb する do, therefore it means be able to do something


The negative form is:

  • ことが()()ない not be able to do
  • and in the polite form ことが()()ません


Can you write kanji?



I can't cook.

The Verbs formed by noun + する do, generally use in the potential form only the noun.

  • (りょう)()することが()()る ⇨ (りょう)()()()be able to cook
  • (うん)(てん)することが()()る ⇨ (うん)(てん)()()be able to drive

ことができる to express skills and abilities

This expression is used to express the ability or qualification to do something or through the negative form the incapacity to do something.

(のう)(りょく) is the term that expresses the ability


He can speak Japanese, English and Chinese.


I am unable to speak in public.

⇨ I am not a good speaker

ことができる to express possibility

ことができる is used to express the possibility or impossibility for various causes to perform an action.

()(のう)(ひょう)(げん) expression indicating possibility and its antonym ()()(のう) impossibility


Wi-Fi is available in this restaurant.


I can't go anywhere today because of the typhoon.

ことができない to express prohibition

In some cases the negative expression ことができない takes on the meaning of prohibition: it is not allowed to do, it is forbidden to do.


Smoking is not allowed at school.

Examples of ことができる


On this website you can find factory jobs.


I can't sleep on the sofa.


I could not eat natto, but now I can.