Tuesday, July 25, 2017

dekiru できる, 出来る

In Japanese, dekiru できる, also spelled dekiru 出来る, means a number of things. It can mean "able to" when used as an auxiliary verb. But it can also mean "capable of." And, sometimes, it can mean "to make" or "to be made" or "to be made of."

先生の細胞を豆腐のように破壊できる ああ もちろん数秒あれば再生しますが quote from manga Assassination Classroom, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室
Manga: Assassination Classroom, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室

Kanji

To begin with, let's take a look at the kanji of dekiru 出来る: they come from two very common words:
  • deru 出る
    To leave.
  • kuru 来る
    To come.

Because of how dekiru is written, you may try to guess the meaning from its kanji and mistakenly assume it has something to do with "to leave somewhere and come somewhere else."

That's not the case. At all. The word dekiru doesn't mean that. The word that means that would be:
  • dete-kuru
    出て来る
    To leave and come (toward the speaker.)
    • E.g. a bus stopped, the passengers started detekuru'ing.

"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. For example:
  • 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 when you have a relative 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 [who is] 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.

Potential Form of する

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

In Japanese, verbs can be conjugated to a potential form, which turns "do verb" into "can do verb" or "to do" into "be able to do." For example:
  • aruku
    歩く
    To walk.
  • arukeru
    歩ける
    To be able to walk.
  • arukeru you ni naru
    歩けるようになる
    To become so [you're] able to talk.
  • sora wo tobu
    空を飛ぶ
    To fly the skies.
  • sora wo toberu
    空を飛べる
    Can fly the skies.

The irregular verb suru する, meaning "to do," is an exception. You don't conjugate suru to get its potential form. Instead, you replace suru by dekiru できる.

This is particularly important because of "suru verbs," which are verbs that have suru come after them. All suru verbs have their suru replaced by dekiru in the potential form. For example:
  • 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 between using dekiru as an auxiliary verb replacing suru, and using it as the main verb of a sentence. In both cases, it means "able to," "can," "capable of," And both cases are common.

先生の細胞を豆腐のように破壊できる ああ もちろん数秒あれば再生しますが quote from manga Assassination Classroom, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室
Manga: Assassination Classroom, 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
    It's able to destroy [my] cells as if they were tofu.
    • sensei no saibou 先生の細胞
      Teacher's cells.
    • Since the teacher is the speaker, it's an unusual way to say "my [cells]."
  • aa ああ
    Ah.
  • mochiron
    suubyou areba
    saisei shimasu ga

    もちろん数秒あれば再生しますが
    Of course if [I] have a few seconds [they] regenerate, though.

で出来ている

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.
  • karada wa tsurugi de dekiteiru
    体は剣で出来ている
    [My] body is made of sword.
    • Japanese version of "I am the bone of my sword" chant from Fate/stay night.

If you read mostly manga in Japanese you probably won't find phrases like those at all, since they're describing things, and usually you don't need to describe what is something made of in a manga as you can see it from the drawings.

They're more likely to show up in LNs, as the narrator is saying something is made of mythril or whatever ore is there in the isekai 異世界.

"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.

よく出来てるのねぇ まるで本物の女の子ちゃんよぅ quote from manga Rozen Maiden (chapter 3)
Manga: Rozen Maiden (chapter 3)
  • Context: a girl sees a doll.
  • yoku dekiteru no nee
    よく出来てるのね
    [She's very] well made, isn't she?
  • marude honmono no onna-no-ko-chan you
    まるで本物の女の子ちゃんよぅ
    It's like [she's] a real girl!
    • chan ちゃん
      Just a cute suffix added here for extra cuteness.
    • you よぅ
      This is yo よ, the sentence ending particle, but she pronounces it differently.

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. Furthermore, what's dekita'd doesn't necessarily need to be a physical thing. For example:
  • 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 nai
    友達が出来たことない
    [I] have never made friends

And further we have these too:
  • kanojo ga dekita
    彼女ができた
    [I] made a girlfriend.
  • suki-na 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)

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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