[Grammar] -(으)ㄹ 수 있어요/없어요 : can/can’t

-(으)ㄹ 수 있(다)/없(다) has two meanings, which are ‘ability’ and ‘possibility’.   It can be translated ‘can/can not’ in English.  You can add the tense at the end like 있어요/있었어요/있을 거예요.

Verb(ends with a consonant) + 수 있다/없다
Verb(ends with a vowel or ) + 수 있다/없다

For example,

자(다) + ㄹ 수 있어요 = 잘 수 있어요 / 없어요
보(다) + ㄹ 수 있어요 = 볼 수 있어요 / 없어요
살(다) + ㄹ 수 있어요 = 살 수 있어요 / 없어요

먹(다) + 을 수 있어요 = 먹을 수 있어요 / 없어요
읽(다) + 을 수 있어요 = 읽을 수 있어요 / 없어요


내일 이 편지를 보낼 수 있어요?
Can you send this mail tomorrow?
잠을 잘 수 없어요.
 I can’t sleep.
컴퓨터를 끌 수 없어요.
 I can’t turn off my computer.
내일 올 수 있어요?
 Can you come tomorrow?
그 사람을 믿을 수 없어요.
I can’t trust that person.
오늘 돈을 찾을 수 있어요?
Can you take out money today?
문을 닫을 수 없어요.
I can’t close the door.
여기에서 수영할 수 있어요?
수영할 수 있어요.
Is it okay to swim here?
I can swim. (ability)

You can also listen to the pronunciation here.

If you want to say “can do / know how to do(ability)”, you can use ‘-(으)ㄹ 줄 알다/모르다’ instead of ‘-(으)ㄹ 수 있다/없다’.  You can click here to learn more ‘-(으)ㄹ 줄 알다/모르다’.


8 thoughts on “[Grammar] -(으)ㄹ 수 있어요/없어요 : can/can’t

  1. Hi, I just found your blog and I love it. You explain everything so well, in fact I finally managed to understand many thing that weren’t clear, so thank you!!! But I have a question, in the phrase
    잠을 잘 수 없어요. = I can’t sleep, I looked at the dictionary it is possible the both 잠 and 자 means “to sleep”? When I tried to translate together it said “sleep well”, could you please explain this, also sorry for any English error, it’s not my first language. Again, thank you a lot !!!! 화이팅 🙂

    1. 안녕하세요. 마리아 씨. Thanks for the reply!

      잠 is a noun for sleep and 자다 is a verb for sleep. So they are often used together as well as just 자다.
      (잠을) 잘 못 잤어요. Can’t sleep.
      (잠을) 잘 자고 싶어요. Want to sleep.

      We have several verbs that are like this such as 춤을 추다 and 짐을 지다.
      잠, 춤, 짐 are nouns that are derived from verbs and they also use with other verbs such as
      잠이 안 와요. Can’t fall asleep.
      춤을 배우고 싶어요. Want to learn dance.
      짐이 무거워요. The stuff is too heavy.

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