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In today’s lesson, we will cover another extremely important phrase. Can you speak English? I know you are going to use that a lot. Using this phrase as opposed to suddenly blurting in English is important for many reasons. For one, if the party you are speaking to doesn’t understand English, at least they will be able to understand what you are asking and it shows a lot of respect to show that you took the effort to learn even a little bit of the language and for these reasons and many more, we are going to cover this phrase.
In Japanese, can you speak English is Eigo o hanase masu ka? Eigo o hanase masu ka? Eigo o hanase masu ka? I know that’s a long sentence. So let’s break it down. E-i-go-o-ha-na-se-ma-su-ka? Altogether it’s Eigo o hanase masu ka?. Let’s break it down by word. The first word Eigo means English. E-i-go. Eigo. This is followed by o which is an object marker O. Here this is marking the word English Eigo. Followed by that is Hanase masu ka. Hanase masu means can’t speak. Ha-na-se-ma-su. Hanase masu is can’t speak and finally we have the particle Ka which is used to make an interrogative sentence. Altogether now it’s Eigo o hanase masu ka? which literally means English, can’t speak. Notice there is no subject in this sentence.
Convenient thing about Japanese is you can say a lot of different sentences without the subject. It’s implied. In this situation, it’s implied that the subject is the person you are asking. That’s because the sentence ends in a Ka and the intonation is right. Now let’s try a different language. How about let’s say French. In Japanese, in most cases, it’s the Japanese name for the country of origin plus the word Go which means language.
For example, let’s take French. France in Japanese is pronounced Furansu. Furansu. So the word French is simply Furansu-go. Fu-ra-n-su-go. Furansu go. pretty simple right. Let’s try this with Spanish. Spanish originated in Spain and so we use the Japanese word for Spain which is Supein. Su-pe-i-n. Supein. Add a Go at the very end and you have Supein-go. Su-pe-i-n-go. Supein-go. So if you wanted to ask, can you speak Spanish, you can say Supein-go o hanase masu ka? Supein-go o hanase masu ka? or if you wanted to ask for French, can you speak French, you would say Furansu-go o hanase masu ka? Furansu-go o hanase masu ka? and as you’ve noticed, you can just change the first word to indicate the language and add o hanase masu ka? Can you speak French? Furansu-go o hanase masu ka? Now on to Sachiko secret.
Now after this explanation, you may wonder where does the word Eigo come from. There is no country called ei. Good point. Well Ago is actually an abbreviation of the word Eikoku-go. Eikoku-go. refers to the UK but instead of saying Eikoku-go. they shortened it to Eigo. Another interesting tidbit is that before world war II, Japanese schools actually differentiated between British English and American English. They even had a different name for it. British English was Eigo which we still use now. American English was Beigo. American is still referred to as Beikoku in Japanese. So they took the first letter of the word Beikoku stuck it with the Go and turned it into Beigo.
Okay so to close our today’s lesson, let’s practice what you have just learned. I will give you the English equivalent of the phrase and you are responsible for shouting it out loud in Japanese. You got that. I will give you a few seconds before I give you the answer. So good luck Ganbatte kudasai. So let’s do a recap. Can you speak English Eigo o hanase masu ka? E-i-go-o-ha-na-se-ma-su-ka? Eigo o hanase masu ka? Can you speak French? Furansu-go o hanase masu ka? Fu-ra-n-su-go-o-ha-na-se-ma-su-ka? All right. That’s going to do it for today. See you later which in Japanese is Matane.


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

JapanesePod101.com Verified
August 25th, 2009 at 06:30 PM
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Hi mina-san! We hope you find this Survival Phrases lesson useful :nihon:

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 24th, 2019 at 05:22 PM
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Hi Emma,

Thank you for your comment!

It would be "Nihongo o chotto dake hanasemasu."

"Nomi" means also "only", but sounds very formal. We often say "dake" instead.

Hope this helps.



Team JapanesePod101.com

May 4th, 2019 at 08:29 PM
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After watching this video I was wondering how one would go about saying; 'I only speak a little bit Japanese.'

Would it become;

'Nomi chotto eigo o hanasemasu.'

Thanks in advance!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 5th, 2016 at 10:00 PM
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Ruth M san,


I think we can use only emoji aboveon this site…

I am sorry about that.:disappointed:

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

Ruth M
April 22nd, 2016 at 07:40 AM
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Yes! I find the lesson VERY useful!:thumbsup:

One thing:I saw an "emoji"with the:"Japanese flag"in

your "comment"YUKI-san.(after the text:"Hi mina-san,! We hope

you find this Survival Phrases lesson useful.)

My question is:Can i also use other"emojis"than them i used to"click"on,

which are on this site?!?:innocent:

I tried to use my own"emojis"before,but it doesn't work.:disappointed:

They "fell out"from the text,and it become "strange" sentences,because of that...:innocent:

I have SO many "emojs"with Japanese pictures,which i hopefully can use at your site too?!?

ARIGATO GOZAiMASU!:thumbsup::smile:MATA NE!:thumbsup::heart::thumbsup:

JapanesePod101.com Verified
November 23rd, 2015 at 08:06 PM
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Sheldon san,


eigo o hanasemasu ka?: can you speak English?

eigo o hanashimasu ka?: do you speak English?

eigo ga hanashimasu ka? This sentence is grammatically incorrect.

eigo ga hanasemasu ka?: can you speak English?


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

November 19th, 2015 at 08:32 AM
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I'm confused and the comments below are just as confusing.

For example for below what is the difference between the four? - "Do you speak English?"

eigo o hanasemasu ka?

eigo o hanashimasu ka?

eigo ga hanashimasu ka?

eigo ga hanasemasu ka?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 5th, 2015 at 02:33 PM
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Lam Thai san,


I know it takes time to understand the meanings/sense of particles.

Hope these answers will shed light a bit.


The particle 'wa' means the noun before 'wa' is 'the topic of the sentence' while the particle

'ga' indicates the subject. Characteristics of 'topic' and 'subject' are very different.

Regarding the sentence in question, you can use either one particle, but it depends on the context.

If you need to take 'nihongo' as the topic, you have to use 'wa'. If the topic is 'watashi', then

it will be 'watashi WA nihongo GA wakarimasu/wakarimasen'.

For instance, if you're talking about languages in general, you might say something like

'I understand English, but I don't understand Japanese'. In that case, you have to take

each language as 'topic'. In that case, you'd say 'nihongo wa wakarimasen'.


Straight answer to your question is 'no'.

The particle 'o' indicates the direct object of transitive verb and it has nothing to do with

potential or any other sense. The particle is more connected to verbs.

'To speak [language]' is '[language] o hanashimasu'.

As I explained above, the particle 'ga' indicates the subject. So, if you say 'eigo ga hanashimasu',

it'd be translated as 'English speaks' (which obviously sounds weird and wrong, right?).

The reason why we use 'ga' with 'hanaseru', in potential form' is because when we use

the potential form, the basic grammar function changes. In this case, Japanese works

very different from English, so it might not seem very straightforward. Hanasemasu could work

like 'speakable', and the sentence 'eigo ga hanasemasu' works something like

'English is speakable' or 'English is possible (for this person to speak)'.

So, my advice here is to learn particles and verbs in each form, always 'as a set'

and 'as a phrase'.

Please feel free to ask us questions if you still have got some. :innocent:

Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

Lam Thai
October 1st, 2015 at 09:52 PM
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I've started learning Japanese and I'm really confused with the usage of various particles. Here are two examples, which I don't know the answers, please help:

#1. What is the difference between 'Nihongo wa wakarimasen" and "Nihongo ga wakarimasen" ?

In one of your Survival Series lessons, 'wa' is used instead of 'ga' (ref. SurvivalPhrases lesson #7). If 'wa' shouild be used instead of 'ga', then how do I interpret "Watashi wa nihongo ga wakarimasen" to be?

#2. In the same series, I ran across the sentence "Eigo o hanasemasu ka" which I thought should have been "Eigo ga hanasemasu ka", which means "Do you speak Englsih?", instead. The particle 'o' should go with verbs that show potential. In that light the particle 'o' should go with "Eigo o hasashimasu ka", which means "Can you speak English?"

Please advise. Thanks,

Lam Thai

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 27th, 2014 at 04:57 PM
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Glad you found the answer by yourself:grin::thumbsup:

That's right; 話せます is grammatically "can speak". Some translations in English

don't reflect grammar to be natural.

So, please feel free to ask us any questions at any time. We're happy to help you:wink:

Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

June 27th, 2014 at 11:41 AM
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I see an answer below! sorry for repeating the question

Salivia Baker

AUGUST 6TH, 2011 AT 11:40 PM


教えてくれてありがとうございました。(I hope this does mean “thanks for telling/teach me”)

So 話せます is the potential form. being able to do something. I see. This helps a lot! thank you again.


AUGUST 6TH, 2011 AT 6:32 PM

Salivia Bakerさん:

“彼は英語と日本語を話します” means “He speaks (or he will speak) in English and Japanese”

“彼は英語と日本語を話せます”means “He can speak English and Japanese”