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How to use “能” and “会” in Chinese

can in chinese, chinese characters, learning chinese

The common uses of "能 (néng)" and "会 (huì)"

 

Both "能 (néng)" and "会 (huì)" can be used to express something that might happen or is expected to happen. For example:

"能 (néng)"和"会 (huì)"都可以表示可能、估计。例如:

 

A: 他能参加这个比赛吗?

tā néng cān jiā zhè gè bǐ sài ma

A: Will he take part in the competition?

 

B: 能参加。

néng cān jiā

B: Yes, he will. 

 

A: 他会参加这个比赛吗?

tā huì cān jiā zhè gè bǐ sài ma

Will he take part in the competition?

 

B: 会参加。

huì cān jiā

B: Yes, he will.

 

Both "能 (néng)" and "会 (huì)" can be used to express some kind of ability or condition. For example:

"能 (néng)"和"会 (huì)"都可以表示有某种能力或者条件。例如:

 

小李能说四种语言:汉语、英语、西班牙语和阿拉伯语。

xiǎo lǐ néng shuō sì zhǒng yǔ yán: hàn yǔ, yīng yǔ, xī bān yá yǔ hé ā lā bó yǔ.

Li can speak four languages: Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic.

 

我不但会滑雪,也会滑冰。

wǒ bú dàn huì huá xuě ,yě huì huá bīng.

I can not only ski but also skate.

 

"能 (néng)" and "会 (huì)" can mean someone is good at doing something, with adverbs of degree like "很 (hěn)", "非常 (fēi cháng)" and "最 (zuì)". For example:

"能 (néng)" 和 "会 (huì)"都可以表示善于做某事,可受程度副词"很"、"非常"、"最"等修饰。例如:

 

听说他最会修电脑了。

tīng shuō tā zuì huì xiū diàn nǎo le.

I heard he is quite good at repairing computers.

 

The different uses of "能 (néng)" and "会 (huì)"

 

"能 (néng)" means that something can be used for a purpose, while "会 (huì)" can’t be used that way. For example:

"能"还表示具有某种用途,"会"没有这个意思。例如:

 

这种红色的植物能吃吗?

zhè zhǒng hóng sè de zhí wù néng chī ma

Is this red plant edible?

 

(WRONG)

木这种红色的植物会吃吗?

zhè zhǒng hóng sè de zhí wù huì chī ma

 

"会 (huì)" can mean someone has learned a certain skill, and "能 (néng)" means the skill has been reclaimed. For example:

"会"可以表示学会某种技能,"能"表示能力的恢复。例如:

 

我在驾校学了三个多月,现在会开车了。

wǒ zài jià xiào xué le sān gè duō yuè, xiàn zài huì kāi chē le.

I took lessons for three months in the driving school, and now I can drive.

 

几个月前我的胳膊受伤了,不过现在好了,又能开车了。

jǐ gè yuè qián wǒ de gē bó shòu shāng le, bú guò xiàn zài hǎo le, yòu néng kāi chē le.

My arm got injured a few months ago, but it recovered now. I can drive a car again.

 

You can only use "能 (néng)" rather than "会 (huì)" when expressing that an ability reaches a certain level. For example:

表示能力达到某种程度时,只能用"能",不能用"会"。例如:

 

他一分钟能写五十个字。  

tā yī fēn zhōng néng xiě wǔ shí gè zì.

He can write 50 characters within one minute.

 

(WRONG)

*他一分钟会写五十个字。

tā yī fēn zhōng huì xiě wǔ shí gè zì.

 

你能听懂法语吗?

nǐ néng tīng dǒng fǎ yǔ ma

Can you understand French?

 

(WRONG)

*你会听懂法语吗?

nǐ huì tīng dǒng fǎ yǔ ma

2016-06-21

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