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Kong Junrui

Differences between 能,可以,会

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Kong Junrui

I was wondering about the differences and similarities between 能 and 会。 As far as I could tell, they're both used kind of like "can" in English is, but when I asked a native Chinese speaker in my Chinese class, and we talked about it for a bit, we figured that 能 is that "I am able to," while 会 is closer to "I can."

This led me to conclude that 会 is the physical ability to, ie "我会打篮球," "I can play basketball" (I have the ability to play basketball well), while 能 is the mental ability, "我能打篮球," "I know how to play basketball." (I know the rules to basketball)

Is this true? Is my conclusion accurate? If not, can someone please explain better?

If that is true, does that mean that I can say "我能打篮球,但是我不会打篮球"? (I know the rules of basketball, but I can't play (maybe because the person is too short or has bad aim))

Thanks!

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L-F-J

能 is simply to have the ability to do something. 会 is to be able to because you learned how.

For example, we'd say: 我会说中文。I can speak Chinese. (from learning it) While a Chinese person may use 能 because they have the ability without having to learn.

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Ferno

haha, and then there's "可以" ke3yi3 too, also meaning "can".

i never understood this either.

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Kong Junrui
haha, and then there's "可以" ke3yi3 too, also meaning "can".

i never understood this either.

Yeah, I know that, but that one's easier... I'm pretty certain that that is used more as a "have permission," so you wouldn't say "我不可以说汉语" for "I can't speak Chinese," unless you actually don't have permission to say it. :P

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L-F-J

This is the way I've learned it:

能做 - have the inherent ability to do

会做 - have the learned ability to do

可以做 - may do

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Ferno

so what about for something like "I can run fast"? it would be hui4, right? but that's not necesarily "learned"

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Quest
能做 - have the inherent ability to do

会做 - have the learned ability to do

可以做 - may do

Not always. There're overlaps. There's also 行不行.

I think 能 is pretty much "can", and it can be used as "may" sometimes.

可以 is "may", but can be used as "can" sometimes.

能 and 可以 are often interchangeable.

会 is better translated as "do you have the skills to", so it's more about skills than ability.

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zhenhui
so what about for something like "I can run fast"? it would be hui4, right? but that's not necesarily "learned"

Actually, for above i would just say 我跑的快

我会跑的快。This i would say it in situation whereby someone's telling me that i cannot run fast here or now at this moment and in order to retort i'll say "i can run fast".

我能跑的快。This might be when i sprain an ankle and someone ask if i can run and win the race, i'll then say 我能跑的快 or 我还能跑的快。(i still can run fast)

or another situation whereby someone needed you to send a message quickly but don't know how so i'll say 我能跑的快一点。

um....hope i'm not going in circles :)

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L-F-J
Not always. There're overlaps. There's also 行不行.

会 is better translated as "do you have the skills to", so it's more about skills than ability.

行不行 is more like 好吗 than 能不能 and 会不会 meaning to ask if something is okay, if you may do something, like 可不可以 sometimes.. 能不能 and 会不会 is more like asking if one has the ability. The difference is like you said 会 refers to having the skills, which is the same as a learned ability, while 能 is to have the ability already, such as perhaps an inherent ability.

The similarity/difference between 能不能 and 可不可以 is like for example:

"你能不能说明一下..." (Ni3 neng2 bu4 neng2 shuo1 ming2 yi1 xia4...) "Can you explain a bit about..."

"你可不可以说明一下..." (Ni3 ke3 bu4 ke3 yi3 shuo1 ming2 yi1 xia4...) "Could you explain a bit about..."

This is how I learned it anyway. Does it sound agreeable?

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BFC_Peter

Found this from review of Oxford Starter dictionary: -

"Oxford Starter" divides "can" into three subcategories:

"to have the possibility" (translated as neng);

"to know how to" (hui);

"to be allowed to" (keyi).

The "neng" entry then gives two illustrative sentences "Can he come?/Ta neng lia ma?" and "Where can I buy stamps?/Wo zai nar neng maidao youpiao?"

The "hui" subcategory has three such illustrative sentences and the "keyi" has four. There are also two warnings on translating "can," one for "hui" and one for "keyi":

"Note that when talking about the ability to speak a language, whether or not "can" is used in English, "hui" is required in Chinese" and

"Note that to negate, you have to use "bu neng" rather than "bu keyi."

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L-F-J

That's probably a better explanation of how they are used in most cases. The explanation for neng and hui are good. The possibility to and the know-how to. However, the explanation for keyi in that dictionary only shows in asking if you have the permission to do something, but it can also be used in asking if someone could do something for you. For example, Ni keyi shuoming yi xia... Could you explain a bit... I don't think that's asking if the person has permission to explain but it's a more polite way to ask if someone could explain something to you.

Why can't you reply "bu keyi" to a "ke bu keyi" question when the answer is negative? Why must it change to "bu neng"? The examples in that dictionary are:

Wo keyi xiyan ma? (may I smoke)

Duibuqi, ni bu neng zai zher xiyan. (sorry, you can't smoke here)

By the explanation in this dictionary that's saying you don't have the possibility to smoke here. Well all you have to do is take out your cigarette and light up. Why not say sorry you may not (bu keyi) (aren't allowed to) smoke here?

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semantic nuance
"to have the possibility" (translated as neng);

"to know how to" (hui);

"to be allowed to" (keyi).

I'll list the usage of 'can' in the following sentences.

1. When 'can' means 'to have the possibility'' date=' 能, 可以, 行, and 會 are interchangeable.

ex: 你能不能幫我這個忙?

你可不可以幫我這個忙? All these four sentences mean the same.

你會不會幫我這個忙?

你行不行幫我這個忙?

2. When 'can' means 'to know how to', use 會.

ex: 你會彈鋼琴嗎? Can you play the piano?

3. When 'can' means 'to be allowed to', use 能 or 可以.

ex: 我能不能在這裡抽菸? Can I smoke here?

我可不可以在這裡抽菸?

Now see the usage of each in the following dialogues:

1. A: 你今晚可不可(能不能/ 會不會/ 可以不可以/ 行不行) 來我家?

Can you possibly come to my house tonight?

B: 可以是可以, 可是我不可以留太久. Yes, I can. But, I cannot stay longer.

能是能, 可是我不能留太久. (the same as above.)

行是行, 可是我不行留太久. (the same as above.)

會是會, 可是我不會留太久. Yes, I can. But, I won't stay longer.(N.B. 不會 here doesn't mean 'not know how to do', but means 'won't'

2. A: 你會彈鋼琴嗎? 你能不能彈給我聽? Can you play the piano? Can you play it for me?

B: 我會! 可是我不能現在彈, 因為有人在睡覺.

(Yes, I can. But, I cannot do it now, for someone is sleeping.)

3. A: 你行不行啊(你可不可以啊/你會不會啊/你能不能啊) ? 這很難的耶! 你有那本事嗎?

Are you able to do it? It is pretty difficult. Do you have the ability to do it?

B: 行! (可以/能/會). 這有什麼難的!

Yes (Of course). How difficult can it be!

Hope it helps! :)

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HashiriKata

This discussion reminds me of a line from a song:

我还能不能重回到你的怀里?

:mrgreen:

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Kong Junrui

Ah, thanks everyone. I think I understand "can" much better now. :)

Back to my basketball example, I can do this then:

:你会打篮球吗?

:我会,但是现在我不能,因为我没有篮球!

In the second line, the last two characters (篮球) are supposed to be basketball, as in the ball used for the game basketball. Not sure if it's correct.

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Ferno

hmm.. it appears keyi, not hui4, is used when you say "I can wear (it)" (wo keyi chuan) but not with stuff like "I can speak" etc...

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nipponman

The rules are 可以 shows permissibility (permission):

會 shows ability: and 能 shows possibility.

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