VDIC + KOTO GA DEKIRU (ことができる)
The structure “Verb (plain form) + KOTO + GA + DEKIRU (ことができる)” is used to express the ability to perform an action.
Note the presence of the functional noun KOTO (こと) that allows the nominalization of a verb. Nominalization is simply the transformation of a verb into a noun. Add the particle GA (が), and the verb of capacity DEKIRU (できる) (= to be able to).
Capacity can also be expressed in Japanese with a verbal form called “the potential form.” Without going into detail here, the verbs end with ERU or RARERU depending on the group they belong.
Our structure “KOTO GA DEKIRU” is more common in writing, in long sentences, but also with the verbs of the second group in order to avoid confusion between the potential form and the passive form (the endings are the same…).
Orally, because of its short pronunciation, the potential form of verbs is more commonly used, especially with verbs used in everyday life. For example, for “to know how to speak a language,” we often use the potential form of HANASU (話す, to speak), which is HANASERU (話せる). HANASU KOTO GA DEKIRU works just as well.
|Kankokugo o hanasu koto ga dekiru?|
|Can you speak Korean?|
Literally: The action of speaking Korean, is it possible?
Of course, simply conjugate the verb できる to the desired tense or form.
|Nattou o taberu koto ga dekimasen.|
|I can’t eat Nattou.|
|Nihon ni iku koto ga dekita.|
|I was able to go to Japan.|
|Kono hon o yomu koto ga dekimasen deshita.|
|I couldn’t read this book.|