ら抜き is the dropping of ら in the auxiliary verb ～られる when used to show potential. Although it is deemed improper by many speakers, it is important to point out that the independent potential verb forms of 五段 did not exist as ‘standard’ Japanese 150 years ago. This lesson will be about how ら抜き is being used in the current speech of a growing majority.
ら抜き, again, is the dropping of ら in the auxiliary ～られる. The ease of conjugation is quite obvious. ～れる attaches the exact same way as ～られる does.
|Verb Class||Base||Conjugation Example||例文|
|上一段活用動詞||未然形||見る＋れる → 見れる||テレビ｛が・を｝見れる|
|下一段活用動詞||未然形||食べる ＋れる → 食べれる||ピザ｛が・を｝食べれる|
Grammar is a living entity defined by current speakers. It is not surprising that this innovation came about because ～られる has three other usages! It is also used to make passives, phrases of spontaneity, and light honorific phrases.
Because ～れる only has the potential meaning, there is assurance that you are only purveying the potential meaning. The one unforeseen consequence of this contraction is that there are now phrases that have become homophonous, although intonation is usually different. As is the case with any set of homophones, context will always save the day.
I was able to wear my old clothes!
I was able to cut it well with scissors!
That person was able to write to a certain degree a well-rounded composition.
I’m spending sleepless nights.
For the time being, I somehow finished it and was able to send it.
I was late due to horrible congestion.
Word Form Note: Ex. 5 and 6 show us that this talk of confusion is void. 送れる is not ら抜き and is the proper potential form of 送る.
There’s no way I’ll be able to stay here in this rain.
To put cherries in a container.
More Info on ら抜き言葉
In formal writing, ら抜き言葉 is almost non-existent, but in day-to-day writing, it is appearing more frequently. Change is often discouraged when in progress. So, for this reason, you’ll likely only see it in the news when someone is being quoted. However, there may come a day when this becomes part of Standard Japanese.
Treating it as Dialectical?
What about the dialects in which ら抜き is the standard? They are probably under influence from regions which say it’s backward, but because it is the standard in these regions and it is becoming standard elsewhere, it’s hard to imagine any of these regions reverting to the current ‘standard’.
Frequency of Use
Some verbs will be more commonly used with ～れる than others. For instance, in casual speech, one may easily say 見れる, 来れる, 食べれる, しゃべれる and the like. It is less likely extended to verbs in which the resulting phrase is relatively harder to pronounce (or harder to roll off the tongue).
How long can…continue?
I can’t seem to start preparing.
Register refers to speech style in social context. Say you are the boss of a company and wish to enforce ‘proper language’ habits on your employees. This is a very understandable situation in modern Japan, and in honorifics, new colloquialisms are not easily accepted, and in the case of honorifics, potential phrases are avoided to begin with. Some people go so far as to say ～れます instead of ～られます in casual, polite speech is an abomination. Continue to see more examples of this as years go by. Some claim that people are beginning to use this in honorifics, but this is hard to believe. It is more likely the person intended to use the potential form to his boss, which is a マナー違反 to begin with.
When can you come?
Relation with other Auxiliaries
It is important to note that ら抜き is not be used with older (usages of) auxiliaries.
12. 見られよう → 見れよう X
In speaking of other auxiliaries, people very frequently use the ～よう conjugation to correct people to use ～られる. So, you may find people saying, if you use ～よう for a verb, then you should use ～られる. Another example is using the 命令形. If you drop る from the potential and don’t get a valid command form, then you can’t use ～れる. As 五段 verbs would only work, 見れる is invalid because 見れ is invalid. This opinion is cute, but there are dialects which allow for the imperatives of 一段 verbs to end in れ. So, for certain regions of Japan, this analogy would not work.
Odd Dialectical Phenomena
In some dialects such as 広島弁, corruptions such as 行けれる can be found. This resembles the slang phenomenon by a minority of speakers to take ～られる and attach it to the 連用形 of the 短縮形 (shortened form) of the potential. Ex. 出す → 出せられる. This, though, like 行けれる are deemed to be errors by most Japanese speakers.
I can’t wake up early!
It’s something you can’t get without paying money.
All I can response with is “ハイ”.
If you eat this way, you can eat a lot of vegetables.
I was able to eat a lot more than usual.
(A-san) doesn’t seem to be able to come because he got a fever from the rain yesterday.
It doesn’t seem I have a chance at going out.
I can’t kick the ball well.
Just when I was one step away from being able to leave the classroom, the door suddenly shut.