ことができる vs える verb form


#1

Through a podcast I learned that these are both ways of expressing the potential to do something. Is there a difference in when to use either?


#2

The える form is what you’ll hear more often in conversation. They do literally mean the same thing though.

I’m not sure if you can use the ことができる form in an attributive way.

Sometimes I use ことができる as a cheat when I realize I can’t quickly remember which category a verb falls into.


#3

I asked this exact same thing to a japanese friend last week, and her answer was that both essentially mean the same thing, but when someone says ことができる the person is kinda like being more assertive about the skill.
Besides that, ことができる is better when it’s a formal situation.


#4

I’ve been seeing ことができる a lot on the NHK easy news, so maybe it’s more common in written Japanese? Just a guess, but it does make sense with


#5

I’m not honestly sure what the difference is, if any, but one thing I have noticed is I’ve heard ことができる used as the answer when I asked someone if I could send mail at a コンビニ. From that I got the sense that ことができる is more about whether or not something is actually possible, whereas える is about the subject’s ability. That’s just a guess though.


#6

It’s also easier to understand, in my opinion.


#7

I learned (maybe wrongly?) that ことができる is for rules and indicating whether something is allowed, whereas the potential form of verbs is used to indicate capabilities. I always wished that wasn’t true, since it’s so much easier than remembering the correct potential forms.


#8

Yea this is pretty much the answer. The ことができる version can put a bit more emphasis on “the ability” but it’s slight and in speech I’m not sure anyone thinks about that at a conscious level.


#9

Was it 送ることができる by chance?

I can iimagine that’s one case where one could also confuse 送れる with 遅れる, even with context.

Although given comments above, I’m probably wrong.