Home grammar 으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다 (can/can’t in Korean) Full guide

으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다 (can/can’t in Korean) Full guide

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으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다 (can/can’t in Korean) Full guide

Can/Can’t in Korean (으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다)

Verb- 을수 있다, 을수 없다 means Can/Can’t in Korean. ‘verbs-을/ㄹ 수 있다/없다’ expresses ability and possibility. ‘을 수 있다/없다’ attaches after the verb stem.

It is used when someone is able to do something or when something is possible. (It is similar to ‘can’ in English.)

If there is ability or possibility, 을수 있다 is used

On the other hand, if there is no ability or possibility, 을수없다 is used.

Let’s start today’s grammar looking at some examples.

운전을 할 수 있어요? Can you drive?

네, 운전을 할 수 있어요.Yes, I can.

그런데 지금은 술을 마셔서 운전을 할 수 없어요. But, because I have a drink, I cannot drive right now.

‘할 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ to ‘하다’. And it expresses ‘I’ have the ability to drive.

On the other hand, when you look at ‘운전을 할 수 없어요.’ (I can’t drive.)

‘할 수 없어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘ㄹ 수 없다’ to ‘하다’. It expresses ‘I’ do not have the ability to drive.

Let’s look at other examples.

‘매운 음식을 먹을 수 있어요.’ I can eat spicy food.

‘먹을 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘을수 있다’ to ‘먹다’. It expresses ‘I’ have the ability to eat spicy food.

When you look at ‘매운 음식을 먹을 수 없어요.’(I can’t eat spicy food.)

‘먹을 수 없어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘을수 없다’ to ‘먹다’. It expresses ‘I’ do not have the ability to eat spicy food.

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When do we use ‘을수 있다/ ㄹ 수 있다?

When do we use ‘을수 있다/ ㄹ 수 있다?’ Let’s find out together.

When the verb stem has the final consonant, ‘을 수 있다’ is used. For example, when you remove ‘다’ from the verb ‘먹다 (to eat), there is the final consonant ‘ ㄱ.’ ‘을 수 있다’ is attached after that. So it becomes ‘먹을 수 있다 (can eat).’

One the other hand, when the verb stem does not have the final consonant, ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ is used. For example, when you remove ‘다’ from the verb ‘하다 (to do), there is no final consonant in the stem. ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ is attached after that. So it becomes ‘할 수 있다 (can do).’

Also, when the verb stem ends in ‘ㄹ’, ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ is attached. For example, when you remove ‘다’ from the verb ‘만들다 (to make), the final consonant in the stem is ‘ㄹ.’ Remove the final consonant ‘ㄹ’, and attach ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ after that. So it becomes ‘만들 수 있다 (can make).’

놀다  To play

Remove ‘다’ from the verb ‘놀다 (to play).’ There is the final consonant ‘ㄹ,’

Remove the final consonant ‘ㄹ’, and attach ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ after that. So it becomes ‘놀 수 있다 (can play).’

을수 있다, 을수 없다 conjugation practice

Let’s practice by looking at some more examples. Let’s make a sentence using ‘을/ㄹ 수 있어요/없어요.’

‘주말에 여행을 + 가다?’ How would you make a complete sentence?

‘주말에 여행을 갈 수 있어요?’ Can you go on a trip on weekend?

‘갈 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘ㄹ 수 있어요’ to ‘가다 (to go).’

‘한국어 책을 + 읽다’ How would you make a complete sentence?

‘한국어 책을 읽을 수 있어요. ‘ I can read Korean books.

‘읽을 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘을 수 있어요’ to ‘읽다 (to read).’

‘숙제를 다 하면 + 놀다’ How would you make a complete sentence?

‘숙제를 다 하면 놀 수 있어요.’ When I finish my homework, I can play.

‘놀 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘ㄹ 수 있어요’ to ‘놀다 (to play).’

‘을/ㄹ 수 있어요/없어요’ expresses ability and possibility.

공연장에서 사진을 찍을 수 있어요?” Can I take a picture in the concert hall?

아니요. 공연장에서는 사진을 찍을 수 없어요. No, you can’t take a picture in the concert hall.

‘찍을 수 있어요?’ is an expression made by adding ‘을 수 있어요’ to ‘찍다 (to take).’

‘찍을 수 없어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘을 수 없어요’ to ‘찍다 (to take).’

내일 지아 씨 생일 파티에 올 수 있어요?” Can you come to Jia’s birthday party tomorrow?

아니요. 못 가요. 약속이 있어요.” No. I can’t go. I have an appointment.

‘올 수 있어요’ is an expression made by adding ‘ㄹ 수 있어요’ to ‘오다 (to come). And with a negative answer ‘못 가요’ using ‘못 + Verb. It’s more natural.

으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다 summary

When the verb stem has the final consonant, ‘을 수 있다’ is used. ‘먹다 (to eat) becomes 먹을 수 있다 (can eat).’

But, when the verb stem does not have the final consonant or when the final consonant ends ‘ㄹ’ in the stem, ‘ㄹ 수 있다’ is used.

So, ‘오다 (to come) becomes ‘올 수 있다 (can come).’

‘만들다 (to make) becomes ‘만들 수 있다 (can make)’

You have to think about the pronunciation.

‘수’ is pronounced as [쑤], when ‘수’ is located after ‘을/ㄹ.’ For example- 

‘매운 음식을 먹을 수 있어요.’ I can eat spicy food. Here ‘수’ which is located after ‘을’ is pronounced as [쑤]. So you can pronounce it as [매운 음시글 머글 쑤 이써요].

Let’s look at another example.

‘운전을 할 수 있어요.’ I can drive. Likewise, ‘수’ which is located after ‘ㄹ’ is pronounced as [쑤]. So you can pronounce it as [운저늘 할 쑤 이써요].

Another thing you have to consider is that when you answer a question negatively, answering with ‘못 동사’ is more natural than ‘을 수 없다.’ For example, I’m asking.

‘김치를 먹을 수 있어요?’ Can you eat Kimchi? If you answer negatively,

‘아니요, 먹을 수 없어요. 너무 매워요.’ ‘No, I can’t eat. It’s too spicy.’

You can answer that also.

And also, you can answer using ‘못 동사.’

‘아니요, 못 먹어요. 너무 매워요.’ No. I can’t eat. It’s too spicy.

Here it is more natural when you answer using ‘못’ and the verb ‘먹어요.’

You can review the Grammar Lesson: 못 V.

으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다
으/ㄹ 수 있다/없다

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