Level 2 Lesson 17 / can, cannot / -ㄹ 수 있다/없다

안녕하세요. What are something that you can do and you can’t do? Which of those things would you like to be able to say that you can or can’t do in Korean? In this lesson we are introducing how to say “can” and “cannot” in Korean. Listen in and let us know in the comment what you can do and what you can’t do – well, preferably in Korean! We will be waiting for your comments! 감사합니다.

You can download both the PDF lesson notes and the MP3 audio track for this lesson below, and if you want to learn with our various textbooks and workbooks, you can get them on our online bookstore at MyKoreanStore.com. If you have any questions about this lesson, please leave us comments below!

Download PDF

Download MP3

Go to the Grammar Curriculum page to see all of our grammar lessons.

Level 2 Lesson 17 / can, cannot / -ㄹ 수 있다/없다
Tagged on:                 
  • ratu

    저는 매운 음식 머글 수 없어요. 그리고 단 음식 많이 먹어요
    제 친구가 많이 매운 음식 목을 수 있어
    is the sentence correct?

    • li

      I think it should be “저는 매운 음식을 [먹을] 수 없어요. 제 친구[는] 할 수 있어요.”
      “I can’t eat spicy food, but my friend can.”

      I think you should use the topic-marking sentence there instead of the subject-marking one because it’s like you’re saying “As for me, I cannot eat spicy food. But as for my friend, s/he can.”

    • Anna R.


    • Gamja

      Shouldn’t use 서 there
      But you’re right that you should use topic markers there. The most natural way to say it would be 제 친구는 매운 거 잘 먹어요

  • 조슈아

    피아노를 재밀 수 있어요.
    I am not sure if this is correct. I believe I am using 재미 incorrectly, but am not positive. If someone could verify or correct this sentence, that would be much appreciated.

    • Isaac

      Are you trying to say that Piano can be fun? That would be 피아노는 재미 있을 수 있어요. That’s a bit more complicated to explain.

    • Isaac Choi

      You can’t say 재밀 수 있어요 because 재밀 is not a verb. It’s a noun.

    • 조슈아

      안녕하세요. 네, I messed that one up hard in hindsight. I wanted to say “I can play piano” thinking that 재미 meant ‘to play’ for some odd reason, when it means fun.

      죄송합니다 and 감사합니다!

  • Maureen Pavlik

    제가 운전 할 수있어요. 일본어도 할 수 있어요. 그런데, 야구 못 해요.

  • Remi

    I ship the two of them <3

  • mags

    is there are formal way to say this?

    • Catsy

      요 ending is formal.
      The SUMNIDA ending is more formal.

  • Yuki

    아직도 한국어를 잘 못해요 ㅠㅠ

  • Which is the proper way to say this? Or do both ways work?
    조금 한국어 할 수 있어요.
    한국어 조금 할 소 있어요.

  • dearbangtan

    조금 한국어 말할 수있어요. ^^ 감사합니다 TTMIK.

  • Sarah T

    when mot is by itself it’s mot but in front of a verb is it always pronounced mon?

    • Catsy

      not every verb – just the ones they suggested

  • Ana Molina

    When you’re talking with someone and you ask “Can you?”
    How can it be in korean?

    • Maya Al-Sayed

      you can say ‘할 수 있을까?’ or ‘할 수 있어요?’.

  • Amal

    네 코멘트 남길 수 있고 한국어 조금 할 수 있어요.

  • Jireh Torres

    Why does this sentence contains 잠을 when the verb is 잘 수 있다?

    모기를 잡을 수 없어서 잠을 잘 수 잆어요.


    • Jenifer

      Here, the sentence literally translates to, Since I couldn’t catch the mosquito, I could not sleep. Let’s just concentrate on the second part of the sentence, as your question lies there.

      잠을 잘 수 잆어요

      잠 = Sleep (noun form).
      잠을 자다 = To sleep (verb form)
      잠을 잘 수 있다 = Can sleep / To be able to sleep

      Since the stress is on sleep on the second half of the sentence, you add the object marking particle to 잠 ‘을’ and write, 잠을 잘 수 잆어요.

      Hope that helped! 🙂 Let me know if you needed any additional clarification.

    • Jireh Torres

      Thanks for the response! But is the “잠을” really needed? The verb already means to sleep right?

    • kitehack

      It’s not necessarily needed, but I guess you could think of it as how you need to associate a verb with an object? Which is how Korean works formally

      You can think of the sentence as:
      I couldn’t get(verb) any sleep(object)

      Same goes for phrases like:
      춤을 못춰요 = I can’t do (verb) dances (object)
      꿈을 꿨어요 = I dreamt(verb) a dream(object)

      I’m not sure if that made sense, but I hope it helps

    • Jenifer

      It is not needed, in a colloquial form. But if you want to be too specific or something, you can use it. But you are right! 🙂

  • 재씨

    한국어 조금 할 수 있어요

  • Renato Hiroshi

    안녕하세요! 저는 브라질 살아요. 그래서 저는 포르투갈어 할 수 있어요. 저는 스페인어 할 수 없어요.

  • Cathal Dunne

    Some practice sentences!
    미국에 갈 수 없어요. 여권 없어요! I can’t go to America. I don’t have a passport!
    내 숙제는 끝날 수 없어요. 시간 없어요 I can’t finish my homework. I don’t have time
    새로운 자동차는 살 수 있어요. 돈 많이 있어요 I can buy a new car. I have a lot of money
    오늘은 일어날 수 없어요. 정말 피곤해요! I can’t get up today. I’m really tired
    티셔츠를 씻을 수 있어요. 세탁기 샀어요. I can wash my t-shirt. I bought a washing machine

  • Waleska Salazar

    저는 에콰도르에서 살아요 그래서 스페인어 할 수 있어요 그리고 영어도 할 수 있어요 그런데 한국어는 조금 할 수 있어요

  • Brklnn.nn

    한국는 주금 할 수 있어요

    • Jo-c C.

      한국어 is Korean the language. 한국 is Korea.
      Here you should just say 한국어
      조금* 한국어 할 수 있어요.
      *There was a misspelling here, and I’m not sure if it needs to be in this order in the sentence.

  • Yvonne

    조금 한국어를 말 할 수 있어요. – I can speak a little bit of Korean.
    저는 먹고 싶어요. 그런데 아직 먹을 수 없어요. I want to eat. But I can’t eat yet.
    못 그려요. I can’t draw.

  • بيان كسيبي

    In order to use one of that two ways to say “can” what is the vowel letters in korean ?

  • Shreya Gupta

    While adding ‘-(으)ㄹ 수 있다/없다’ to verbs already ending with ‘ㄹ’ like ‘팔다’ do we only add ‘수 있다/없다’ to the verb stem or we add ‘을 수 있다/없다’?
    Can sell = 팔 수 있다 or 팔을 수 있다? Which one of them is correct?

    • Dương Nguyễn Trung

      팔 수 있다 / 이것은 맞아요. 저도 한국어를 공부하고 있어요. 하지만 베트남 사람 입니다.

  • Jo-c C.

    지금 저는 조금 한국어 할 수 있어요. 그런대 곧 더 한국어를 할고 있을 거예요!
    Right now I know a little Korean. But soon I will know more Korean!

    저는 수영할 수 있어요. I can swim.
    오늘 저는 우리 엄마를 돕고 있어요. 그래서 못 놀아요. Today I am helping my mum, so I can’t hang out.

  • 지금 조금 한국어 할 수 있어요.

    일본어 못 해요.

    영어를 할 수 있어요.


    못 다려요.

  • Kenneth

    한국어 할수없어요. 하지만 매일 저는 공부해요.

  • Maria Uribe

    스페인어를 할 있어요 🙂

  • Ashley Anderson

    일본어를 읽을 수 없어요. 하지만 한글을 읽을 수 있어요.

  • 조슈아

    A: 차 두 대 살 수 해요. (I can buy two cars)
    B: 꿈이에요… (That’s a dream…)
    A: 네. 저는 오만원만 있어요. (Yea. I have only 50,000 won).