How to say “I can”, “I’m able to” in Chinese

Before you go too far into a general conversation in Chinese on a plan, a project, a whatever topic that’ll demand actions, you’ll realize that you need to express “I can …”, ” I’m able to …” in Chinese frequently.

The equivalent words in English are only a few: can, could, be able to etc…. In Chinese, they are not many either.

OK, let’s go through some new words first. There are only three of them:

kěyǐ jiè bǐjì
[hanzi]可以[/hanzi](could, be able to)  [hanzi][/hanzi](borrow) [hanzi]笔记[/hanzi] (notes)

Let’s get started…

I can do this.

wǒ néng zuò zhège.




wǒ huì zuò zhège.



I’m able to do this.

wǒ kěyǐ zuò zhège.



Focus on following three keywords:

néng,   huì,   kěyǐ

,        ,      可以

Basically, you just put one of the above keywords right before the verb. If those keywords are used in question or answer pattern, do it this way:

If you wanna say:

[Can you do this?

Yes, I can.

No, I can’t.]


You can use either one of the following patterns:

<Pattern 1>

nǐ néngbùnéng zuò zhège?


wǒ néng.       néng.

我能.    Or simply .

wǒ bùnéng.     bùnéng.

我不能Or simply 不能.


<Pattern 2>

nǐ huìbùhuì zuò zhège?


wǒ huì.       huì.

我会.    Or simply .

wǒ bùhuì.     bùhuì.

我不会Or simply 不会.


<Pattern 3>

nǐ kě bùkěyǐ zuò zhège?


wǒ kěyǐ.              kěyǐ.

我可以     Or simply 可以.

wǒ bùkěyǐ.             bùkěyǐ.

我不可以    Or simply 不可以.


You might have noticed that when you answer such type of questions, you really don’t need to say “Yes” first as you do in English. Just jump directly to “I can.” or “I can not.” Or simply “Can.” or “Can’t.”.

Aside from  and 可以, you can also use “ (xíng)“. But remember, this word can NOT be followed by any other words. Using it as the meaning of “can”, you can only use it simply as below:


nǐ xíng bùxíng?





Hope I’ve explained it clear to you on how to say “I can …” and “I’m able to …” sentence pattern in Chinese. Now let’s have a look at the following examples to reinforce what you’ve learned from this lesson:

Can you go to the company today?

nǐ jīntiān néngbùnéng qù gōngsī?





Another way of asking the same question is:

nǐ jīntiān néng qù gōngsī ma?





When you answer such type of questions, you really don’t have to use the exact keywords that has been used in the question. You can use anyone of the following in your answer:













Now you need to give yourself a chance to practice as well. Try to translate the following sentences into Chinese first by yourself, then look at the answer below:

  1. Can I have lunch at school?

Yes, you can.



wǒ jīntiān néng zài xuéxiào chīfàn ma?





  1. May I borrow your notes to read?

Yes, no problem.



nǐ néng jiè wǒ kàn yīxià nǐ de bǐjì ma?


xíng, méiwèntí.



  1. Could my sister stay here tonight?

Yes, go ahead!



wǒ mèimei jīnwǎn néng zhù zhèr ma?


kěyǐ, zhù ba!



  1. Can you write Chinese?

Yes, I do.



nǐ huì xiě Zhōngwén ma?





Have you enjoyed your lesson … 🙂 Learning Chinese definitely requires hard work. However, as long as you work in a balanced pace, mix your study with fun together, you’ll be amazed at your progress one day soon…

Feel free to leave your comment before you go … see you next time, my good friend!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on  !  🙂



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