Ask Can I Do Something in Chinese with Modal Verb 能 | 能 vs. 会 in Chinese
In this video lesson we'll learn how to ask can I do something in Chinese with 能, and also we'll compare 能 vs. 会 in Chinese.
- Ask Can I Do Something in Chinese with Modal Verb 能
- Answer 能-question with yes/no: 可以/不行
- 能 vs. 会 in Chinese
- 开 vs. 关 in Chinese
Grammar 1: Ask Can I Do Something in Chinese with Modal Verb 能 · HSK 1
The Modal Verb 能 néng can be used to suggest (1) possibility to do something (2) rationality to do something.
Like other Modal Verbs, 能 can be used before a Verb Predicate, following such structure,
Subject + 能 + Verb Predicate (+Object)
One thing to notice is that 能 is usually used (1) to ask a question or (2) in a negative sentences
(1) 能 used to ask a question
- wǒ néng kāimén ma
can I open the door
- wǒ néng guān diànshì ma
can I turn off the TV
- nǐ jīntiān néng lái ma
can you come today
- wǒ xiànzài néng zǒu ma
can I leave now
(2) 能 used in a negative sentences
- wǒ bùnéng guān diànshàn, tàirèle
I can't turn off the fan, (it is) too hot
- wǒmen bùnéng kāi diànshì, māma zài zhèlǐ shuìjiào ne
we cannot turn on the TV; mom is sleeping here
- Zhāng lǎoshī xiàge xīngqī bùnéng qù
Teacher Zhang cannot go next week
- wǒ xiànzài bù néng shuō
I cannot tell (you) now
Grammar 2: Answer 能-Question With Yes/No: 可以/不行 · HSK 1
To answer 能-question with Yes/No, we don't really simply say néng 能 and bùnéng 不能 for yes and no.
More likely, we use kěyǐ 可以 for yes and bùxíng 不行 for no. For example,
Q: nǐ néng gěiwǒ mǎi běn shū ma
can you buy me a book
no; (it's) not (gonna) work
Q: wǒ néng kāi diànshì ma
can I turn on the TV
no; (it's) not (gonna) work
However, when the answer is no, answering with only 不行 might sound too blunt or impolite. Adding 对不起 and a little explanation can help soften the tone.
Q: nǐ néng kāi diànshì ma
can you turn on the TV
A: duìbuqǐ, bùxíng, wǒ bù zhīdào kāiguān zài nǎr
sorry, no, I don't know where the power button is
Q: wǒmen jīntiān wǎnshàng néng chī pīsa ma
can we eat pizza tonight
A: bùxíng, jīntiān shì wǒ māma de shēngrì, tā xiǎng chī jiǎozi
no, today is my mon's birthday; she wants to eat dumplings
Grammar 3: 能 vs. 会 in Chinese · HSK 1
We have learned Modal Verb 会 huì before, both 会 and 能 can be translated as "can" or "to be able to" in English. But there are distinct differences between them.
会 suggests one’s ability to do something.
能 suggests (1) the possibility to do something (2) the rationality to do something.
- nǐ huì shuō Zhōngwén ma
can you speak Chinese (as a skill)
- nǐ néng shuō Zhōngwén ma
can you speak Chinese (as an inquiry, asking possibility)
- nǐ huì xiě zhège Hànzì ma
can you write this Chinese character(because you know how to write it)
- nǐ néng xiě zhège Hànzì ma
can you write this Chinese character(because I asked you to write it)
- tā bú huì Zhōngwén, wǒ bùnéng hé tā shuō Zhōngwén
he doesn't know Chinese, I can't speak Chinese with him
Grammar 4: 开 vs. 关 in Chinese · HSK 1
In Chinese both kāi 开 and guān 关 have two meanings.
- kāi 开 to open; to turn on
- guān 关 to close; to turn off
And when 开 and 关 are put together, they make a Compound 合成词 Héchéngcí - 开关.
- kāiguān 开关 (power) switch; power button