The differences between ‘会‘(huì), ‘能’(néng), ‘可以‘(kěyǐ) – All levels

‘会’(huì),‘能’(néng), ‘可以’(kěyǐ) all mean ‘can’, but do you know the differences?

 

This grammar summary is for all levels, if you just started learning Chinese, click the 10 Common Beginner Mistakes in Chinese to get your right Chinese dessert!

 

能 vs 会 (néng/huì)
To express the ability

a. 能néng: the inborn ability, don’t need to learn.

  • 我有眼睛,所以我能看。
  • (wǒ yǒu yǎnjīng, suǒyǐ wǒ néng kàn)
  • I have eyes, so I can see.

 

  • 我有耳朵,所以我能听。
  • (wǒ yǒu ěrduō, suǒyǐ wǒ néng tīng)
  • I have ears, so I can hear.

 

  • 我能照顾自己。
  • (wǒ néng zhàogù zìjǐ)
  • I can take care of myself.

 

b. 能néng: the ability is up to a level or extent.

  • 他一天能学习100个中国字。
  • (tā yìtiān néng xuéxí yìbǎi gè zhōngguó zì)
  • He can learn 100 Chinese words by heart one day.

 

  • 他一分钟能游300米。
  • (tā yì fēnzhōng néng yóu sān bǎi mǐ)
  • He can swim 300 meters one minute.

 

c. 能néng: lost some ability for the moment, because of some reasons or recover the ability.

  • 他的手受伤了,所以他现在不能打篮球。
  • (tā de shǒu shòushang le, suǒyǐ tā xiànzài bùnéng dǎ lánqiú)
  • He hurt his hands, so he can’t play basketball now.

 

  • 他的脚好了,他能再次走路了。
  • (tā de jiǎo hǎo le, tā néng zàicì zǒulù le)
  • His foot is recovered, he can walk again.

 

  • 没有面粉,所以我不能做蛋糕给你。
  • (méiyǒu miànfěn, suǒyǐ wǒ bùnéng zuò dàngāo gěi nǐ)
  • There is no flour, so I can’t make cakes for you.

 

d. 会huì: not inborn ability, emphasise the skill.

  • 他会打篮球。He can play basketball.
  • (tā huì dǎ lánqiú)

 

  • 我会烹饪。I can cook.
  • (wǒ huì pēngrèn)

 

  • 她会跳舞。She can dance.
  • (tā huì tiàowǔ)

 

  • 我会做蛋糕。I can make cakes.
  • (wǒ huì zuò dàngāo)

 

 

能 vs 会 (néng/huì)
To express possibility

a. 能néng: emphasise the objective possibility

  • 他认识很多人,他能帮你。
  • (tā rènshi hěn duō rén, tā néng bāng nǐ)
  • He knows a lot of people, he can help you.

 

  • 这里的东西很便宜,100元能买很多。
  • (zhèlǐ de dōngxi hěn piányi, yìbǎi yuán néng mǎi hěnduō)
  • Things are cheap here, 100 yuan can buy many things.

 

  • 他有一个会,所以他今天不能来。
  • (tā yǒu yígè huì, suǒyǐ tā jīntiān bùnéng lái)
  • He has a meeting, so he can’t come today.

 

b. 会huì: emphasise the subjective possibility

  • 他很热心,他会帮助你。
  • (tā hěn rèxīn, tā huì bāngzhù nǐ)
  • He is kind-hearted, he will help you

 

  • 我会想你。
  • (wǒ huì xiǎng nǐ)
  • I will miss you

 

  • 相信我,我不会骗你。
  • (xiāngxìn wǒ, wǒ búhuì piàn nǐ)
  • Believe me, I will not cheat you.

 

 

可以 vs 能 (kěyǐ/néng)
To express possibility

1. only used when the ability is up to a level or extent – 可以kěyǐ/能néng

  • 他一天能学习100个中国字。
  • (tā yìtiān néng xuéxí yìbǎi gè zhōngguó zì)
  • He can learn 100 Chinese words by heart one day.

 

  • 他一分钟能游300米。
  • (tā yì fēnzhōng néng yóu sān bǎi mǐ)
  • He can swim 300 meters one minute.

 

2. ask for possibility or permission – 可以kěyǐ/能néng

  • 我 可以/能 用你的书吗?
  • (wǒ kěyǐ/néng yòng nǐ de shū ma?)
  • May I use your book?

 

  • 我 可以/能 进来吗?
  • (wǒ kěyǐ/néng jìnlái ma?)
  • May I come in?

 

  • 你 可以/能 帮我吗?
  • (nǐ kěyǐ/néng bāng wǒ ma?)
  • Can you help me?

 

3. express objective possibility – 可以kěyǐ

  • 天热起来了,你可以游泳了。
  • (tiān rė qǐlái le, nǐ kěyǐ yóuyǒng le)
  • It is getting warm, you can swim.

 

  • 这个包很大,你可以在里面放很多东西。
  • (zhègè bāo hěn dà, nǐ kěyǐ zài lǐmiàn fàng hěnduō dōngxi)
  • This bag is big, you can put a lot of things in.

 

4. no possibility – 不能bùnéng

  • 我明天有一个考试,我不能和你去购物。
  • (wǒ míngtiān yǒu yígè kǎoshì, wǒ bùnéng hé nǐ qù gòuwù)
  • I have an exam tomorrow, I can’t go shopping with you.

 

  • 他有一个会,所以他今天不能来。
  • (tā yǒu yígè huì, suǒyǐ tā jīntiān bùnéng lái)
  • He has a meeting, so he can’t come today.

 

5. prohibition – 不能bùnéng/ 不可以bùkěyǐ

  • 你 不能/不可以 这样做。
  • (nǐ bùnéng/bù kěyǐ zhèyàng zuò)
  • You can’t do like that. (forbidden)

 

  • 你 不能/不可以 在这抽烟。
  • (nǐ bùnéng/bù kěyǐ zài zhè chōuyān)
  • You can’t smoke here.

 

  • 你 不能/不可以在这泊车。
  • (nǐ bùnéng/bù kěyǐ zài zhè bóchē)
  • You can’t park here.

 

6. advise – 可以kěyǐ

  • 如果你有问题,你可以问你的老师。
  • (rúguǒ nǐ yǒu wèntí, nǐ kěyǐ wèn nǐ de lǎoshi)
  • If you have any question, you can ask your teacher.

 

  • 你可以坐公交车去那里。
  • (nǐ kěyǐ zuò gōngjiāo chē qù nàlǐ)
  • You can take a bus to get there.

 

Tips: ‘ 不可以’(bùkěyǐ) is only used to express prohibition. ‘不能’(bùnéng) is used to express impossibility, because of some reasons.

 

Hope it helps you!

Ling

Ling

Hi, I’m Ling, a Chinese tutor and a language learning amateur. I create this blog with a goal to help Mandarin learners and Chinese culture lovers to study and know about this language by self-learning. Welcome to visit me from time to time and give me your precious advice! Thank you! 😛

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