Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dekiru できる, 出来る

The verb and auxiliary verb dekiru できる (or dekiru 出来る with kanji) is one of those common Japanese words that appear everywhere and then sometimes places you'd think it shouldn't be. It doesn't have one single meaning, dekiru can mean multiple things. And its kanji are kind of weird too. So in this post I'll explain about the word.

To begin with, the kanji of dekiru 出来る are two very common ones. 出 means "to get out" or "to leave," and 来 means "to come." Savvy detectives will figure out dekiru 出来る must mean "to get out of something and come [to you]." Which would make sense, but would also be wrong.

It's detekuru 出て来る that means "to get out of something and come [to you]." The word dekiru 出来る does not mean that. Only detekuru!

So what does dekiru mean?

To Be Capable Of

The first and most common meaning of dekiru できる is "to be capable of (something)." We can see this in any clause where dekiru できる is the main verb. See:
  • kare wa nandemo dekiru 彼は何でもできる
    He is capable of anything.
    He can do anything.

Like any other verb, you can conjugate it to negative, past, polite, etc.
  • nandemo dekimasu 何でもできます
    [I] am capable of anything.
    [I] can do anything.
  • kare wa nanimo dekinai 彼は何もできない
    He is not capable of anything.
    He can do nothing.
  • nanimo dekinakatta 何もできなかった
    Was not capable of anything.
    Couldn't do anything.
  • shouri wo eru koto ga dekimasen deshita 勝利を得ることができませんでした
    Was not capable of attaining victory.
    Couldn't win.

And you can use it as an adjective clause, too.
  • ore wa nandemo dekiru otoko da!!! 俺は何でもできる男だ!!!
    I'm a man who is capable of anything!!!
    I'm a man who can do anything!!!
  • nanimo dekinai yatsu da na 何もできない奴だな
    That's a guy not capable of anything.
    That's a guy who can't do anything.

And, of course, you can use it in questions.
  • kisama ni nani ga dekiru? 貴様に何ができる?
    What is capable by you? (literally)
    What can you do?
  • sore ga dekiru ka? それができるか?
    [are you] capable of doing that?
    Can [you] do that?

Also an important note is the construction dekiru you ni naru できるようになる, "becomes capable of." Since this one appears in a lot of game explanations. See:
  • soubi suru to sora wo tobu koto ga dekiru you ni naru 装備すると空を飛ぶことができるようになる
    If you equip [this] [you] become capable of flying the skies.

Auxiliary Verb To Be Able To

The next use of dekiru is as an auxiliary verb. This one needs a bit of explanation.

Basically, Japanese verbs have a conjugation called potential which turns "do verb" into "can do verb" or turns "to do" into "be able to do". For the verb "to walk", aruku 歩く, for example, "to be able to walk" would be arukeru 歩ける. So arukeru you ni naru 歩けるようになる would be "to become able to walk." (a baby, an injured person, etc.)

The irregular verb suru する, meaning "to do," is an exception. You don't conjugate suru to get its potential form. You just use dekiru できる instead. This means that suru verbs, words that use suru as an auxiliary in order to actually become verbs, can have suru replaced by dekiru to get their potential forms. Basically:
  • kekkon suru 結婚する
    To marry.
  • kekkon dekiru 結婚できる
    To be able to marry.
    Can marry.
  • kekkon dekinai 結婚できない
    Not to be able to marry.
    Can't marry.

On top of that, you can conjugate the auxiliary dekiru to its polite form, too.
  • houkoku dekiru 報告できる
    houkoku dekimasu 報告できます
    [I] can report [the facts].
  • kakunin dekinakatta 確認できなかった
    kakunin dekimasen deshita 確認できませんでした
    [I] couldn't confirm.

Save for grammar technicalities, there's little difference in meaning between using the auxiliary verb dekiru like this and using it without a suru verb. It means "able to," "can," "capable of," etc. either way, and both ways are frequent.

Quote from Koro-sensei from the manga Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室: sensei no saibou wo toufu no you ni hakai dekiru 先生の細胞を豆腐のように破壊できる


The use of dekiru like this can occur with any suru verb, so it's a very common thing.
(technically, the verb dekiru can itself be conjugated to the potential form as dekirareru できられる, that makes about as much sense as saying "can can" in English)

To Be Made With

After all this you're probably thinking dekiru is all about making it possible, right? You would be half correct.

Another meaning of the verb dekiru is to express how was it possible for something to be done, in other words, what it was made of, or what it was made with.

This one doesn't happen with frequency so it can catch you off guard. Most of the time it's pretty obvious since some sort of material is included in the phrase. Examples:
  • tetsu de dekiteiru 鉄でできている
    Made with iron.
  • tetsu de dekita 鉄でできた
    Was made with iron.

If you read mostly mangas in Japanese you won't find phrases like those at all. They like to show up in LNs, when the narrator is describing what sort of mythril some weapon or armor in the isekai 異世界 is made of.

To Make

If dekiru means "made with" when there's a de で particle, then it must mean "to make" without the particle, right? Well, not exactly.

The verb that actually means "to make" in Japanese is tsukuru 作る. In the sense it means "to build,"  "to fabricate," "to construct," etc. The verb dekiru does not have those meanings. When dekiru is translated as "to make" or "to be made with" the emphasis is on the fact that the thing is done, or rather, was done, was completed, came to exist, etc. and not on the process of making. Examples:
  • ocha ga dekita お茶ができた
    [I] made tea,
    The tea is done.
  • bangohan ga dekita 晩御飯ができた
    [I] made dinner.
    The dinner is done.
  • kousoku de idou suru uchuusen ga dekita 光速で移動する宇宙船ができた
    [I] made a spaceship that moves at the speed of light.  (Wow, [I] am awesome. How did [I] alone do that?)
    A spaceship that moves the speed of light was made.

Making The Intangible

Do not get too attached to the "to make" verb, however. Some stuff can be dekita'd in Japanese that won't get "made" in English but will get verb'd in a way that's similar. Further, what's dekita'd doesn't necessarily need to be a physical thing. See:
  • shuuri ga dekita 修理ができた
    [I] made the repairs.
    The repairs are done.
  • mokuhyou ga dekita 目標ができた
    I found an objective.
    I didn't have an objective before, so I made one.

When you "make" repairs you aren't actually making anything. You don't get to hold the repairs on your hand after they have been made. It's just a way of saying you have done the repairs. The same goes for an objective. To make plans, to make a band, etc. You just made those things exist... sort of. It's complicated.

Making Relationships

A common case of using dekita to "make" non-physical things is when we're talking about relationships. Perhaps the best example is, well, this phrase you can find present in basically 95% of all anime:
  • tomodachi ga dekita 友達が出来た
    [I] made friends (or a friend, single one)

And, of course, the countless number of variations of the phrase above:
  • sugu ni tomodachi ga dekita すぐに友達が出来た
    Made friends immediately. (after changing schools, for example)
  • tomodachi ga dekita koto ga nai 友達が出来たことがない
    [I] have never made friends

And further we have these too:
  • kanojo ga dekita 彼女ができた
    [I] made a girlfriend.
  • sukina hito ga dekita 好きな人ができた
    [I] made a person I like (meaning crush/lover/significant other unless in some very forced romcom joke)

So this is how the verb dekiru できる works in the Japanese language.

Related Words

dekiagaru 出来上がる

The verb  dekiagaru 出来上がる can be used instead of dekiru できる when saying "to make" or "to be done" or "completed." However, dekiagaru can not replace the "capable of" meaning of dekiru. When dekiagaru is used, it often implies whatever was made or will be made takes time or effort to be completely completed. You can think of it as a non-trivial version of dekiru.

The word dekiagari 出来上がり, which comes from the verb, has two related meanings. The first is in regards of saying when something will be or was done. When it was dekiagaru'd. The second is about the quality of its doneness. That is, if it's well done or not. If it was a shoddy work.

dekasu でかす

The verb dekasu でかす, sometimes 出かす, sometimes 出来す, means "to achieve" or "to do" something. Usually something incredible and noteworthy. Usually used in anime by robbers, criminals and so on who just managed to hit the jackpot. Usually in the form of dekashita zo! でかしたぞ! with the meaning of "hurray! you did it!"

dekireba できれば

This is actually the ba condition form of the verb dekiru, but I think it's important enough to note: dekireba できれば means "if possible" or "if it can be done."

dekigoto 出来事

This has little to do with dekiru. A dekigoto is any "thing," koto 事, that was done. That happened. In the sense of incidents, affairs, events, etc. In anime and manga, the protagonist usually gets involved in a lot of dekigoto's.

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