Help with える/うる grammar (is possible/can)

I’m studying some N2 grammar and I’ve run into this doozy of a grammar point.
I think I understand the basics of える and うる…but what do you do about です?
Or do you just switch to できる?
When do you use できる instead? That is how I managed in my daily life in Tokyo, even though I’m sure I screw things up grammatically from time to time.

…okay maybe I don’t understand it.


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できる is the potential form of する
です doesn’t have a potential form, because it’s the copula - you’re not doing anything, so there’s no sense in saying “can do”.

No idea what うる is supposed to be, here.

How would you express “could be” then?

ありえる is something you see quite often, though usually in the negative.


Watch PreCure to hear Nagisa’s catchphrase “ありえなーい‼️” over and over and over again.

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Ah! I always understood that to mean “unbelievable”! I think it’s translated as that sometimes. I didn’t know that it was actually “it can’t be!!”

Thank you!!

I’m still confused as to what うる is. Can you explain?

Do you mean the differences? My Handbook of Grammar Patterns blah blah says that うる can’t be used with verbs in masu, negative, or た forms. Only えます, えない, and えた will be seen.

Other than that, they’re pretty much the same, just alternate readings of the same character. 得る.

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Think we need to go a step further back.

We’re talking here about the V-stem+える = “can verb” here, aren’t we? You’re saying I can do the same trick with うる?

So, say, 食べる → 食べられる can also be expressed as… uh… 食べらるる?

Er… no. える/うる is not related to れる/られる

EDIT: Unless there is some etymological link in the past. But I’ve never seen them referred to as the same grammar points.

My book just says it’s not used with volitional verbs, so 食べる would qualify as something you do of your own volition.

Or something like 話す also, so you can’t have 話しうる, you’d just say 話せる

But something like 起こる isn’t volitional, so you can have 起こりえる / 起こりうる

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Hmm. The Dictionary of Japanese Grammar’s index entry for える basically just says “see られる2”, but then never explicitly mentions える, so it’s probably just referring to the う-verb conjugation. There’s no other mention, in any of the trilogy.

Jisho’s entry says
Auxiliary verb, Ichidan verb, Transitive verb

  1. to be able to …, can …​Only applies to 得る
    See also 得ない, See also 得る うる, after the -masu stem of a verb

This is evidently some grammar form I’ve not encountered before (though honestly, I can believe they’re etymologically related).

Ah, then I can understand the confusion. It’s solely seen in written Japanese, except for ありえない, which is also used in spoken Japanese.

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