Hanasemasu / Anata wa

イ リ ニ

Hello everyone,

I have two questions about the survival phrases that I'm stumped on:

1.  I'm a little confused as to how I should understand "hanasemasu"

If "hanasemasu" means "I can speak / I speak"
Then why doesn't "hanasemasu ka" mean "can I speak" - instead, it means "can you speak"
I think I'm missing something fundamental here?

2.  In the sentence, what is the reason for "anata wa"
Why is it not instead "nihongo ga hanasemasu ka" - it seems like "anata wa" is redundant?  Although, obviously not as it's there... I'm not understanding why. 

Or does "anata wa" switch the sentence from "can I speak" to "can you speak"?

Thanks very much for any insight! :-)

夫婦茶碗

Are you talking about this sentence in Module 1.4?
あなた は にほんご が はなせます か?
Can you speak Japanese?
I sometimes find the appearance of は and が in the same sentence a little difficult to translate, but I believe it works out like this in this instance:
あなた = subject(EN) or topic (JP) + topic marker/particle
にほんご = object + object marker/particle
はなせます =  verb [polite] + question marker/particle

Topic                         Object                     Verb                 Question
あなた                 にほんご が         はなせます
You                             Japanese               can speak?

(Corrections or further explanation welcome!)
(eta 4/12/2019: Looks like "Topic" is the correct description, so "subject" removed)

イ リ ニ

Yep!  That's the sentence in module 1.4.

So, based on your deconstruction (thank you very much!):
はなせますか = can speak
rather than:  I can speak/I speak

When I researched this online, I saw it referenced as both.  So, I ran the following through a Japanese/English translator:
\にほんご が はなせます か
and it translates as "can you speak Japanese" - even though あなた は has been removed.

So I'm still a bit confused :-)

夫婦茶碗

Unlike in English where a subject + verb is needed for a sentence to be complete, the subject (perhaps better categorized as the topic) of a Japanese statement can be omitted altogether and the listener or reader is left to infer the subject/topic from the context.

To use the example にほんご が はなせます か , it can be translated as:
Can I speak Japanese?  OR
Can you speak Japanese?  OR
Can he/she speak Japanese? OR
Can they speak Japanese?

Ignore the computer translation's "you"— it's providing a subject because it has been programmed to produce English results with a subject + verb structure.

Tony-S10

If I can add the ka makes it a question.

日本語が話せますか can you speak Japanese?
日本語が話しますか Do you speak in Japanese
日本語を話す I speak Japanese
日本語を話している I am speaking in Japanese

日本語が話せます is the same as this 日本語を話すことができます which will confuse you on advanced lessons!

イ リ ニ

Alright, well that helps tremendously - thanks so much guys!

I feel like I'm hogging the Japanese forum a bit!!

夫婦茶碗

The forum is a useful learning tool, please hog it. d(⌒ー⌒)

ClaudiaR13

Please hog the forum.  That's why it's here.

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Japanese trial here .