How To Say ‘Can’ In Korean

It’s funny how a word as short as ‘can’ in English, can be so much more complex and diverse a concept in Korean.  In this lesson, you will learn how to say ‘can’ in Korean, read on for explanations, tips to remember it and sample sentences!

A man standing at the top of a mountain.

How to Say ‘Can’ in Korean – 80/20*


     Can (possible) – ganeunghada | 가능하다

     Can (do) – ㄹ/eul su itda | ㄹ/을 수 있다

     Can (able to) – ㄹ jul alda | ㄹ 줄 알다

     Can (asking permission) – do doeda | 도 되다


How to remember (association):

     That cannon can make a big sound . (가능 | ganeung)

*80/20 Pareto Principle – The 20% you should learn that will give you 80% of the results.


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‘Can’ in Korean

If you’re just looking for a word for how to say ‘can’ in Korean, then the answer is 가능하다 (ganeunghada). The closest translation to this word is ‘possible’, but it does work for ‘can’ as well.

What you need to know about the word can in Korean is that it is more commonly expressed through a specific grammar structure. For this you have three main options you can use.

The first one is -ㄹ/을 수 있다 (-ㄹ eul su itda). You attach this grammar pattern to the verb you wish to say you can do. For example, 하다 (hada) +  -ㄹ/을 수 있다 (-ㄹ eul su itda) forms 할 수 있다 (hal su itda), which means ‘can do’.

The second one is -ㄹ 줄 알다 (-ㄹ jul alda). While this grammar structure also means ‘can’, it is specifically used to refer to a skill you have an ability for. As an example, it is often used when you want to say you can speak Korean, or when you are asked if you can speak Korean: 한국말 할 줄 알아요 (hangungmal hal jul arayo).

The third one is -도 되다 (-do doeda). This one means ‘can’ in the form of a permission. For example, if you want to ask your friend if you can come visit them tomorrow, you would phrase it like this: 내일 방문해도 될까? (naeil bangmunhaedo doelkka?).


To remember how to say tomorrow in Korean we’ll create an English association for it. This can be any word, phrase, or image that helps you recall the Korean word and its meaning.

So how can we remember 내일? It sounds like the English word nail.


That cannon can make a big sound (가능|  ganeung)

A word of caution about Romanization

While it is possible for you to study the words in this article simply by reading their romanized versions, it will come in handy for you to be able to read Hangeul if you ever wish to come to Korea. Hangeul is the Korean alphabet, and not difficult to learn. In fact, you can learn it in just 90 minutes.

After you’ve familiarized yourself with Hangeul, life in Korea will suddenly seem so much easier and the country won’t appear so foreign for you. So, if you’re serious about learning Korean, why not learn Hangeul today?


Sample Sentences

kid giving thumbs up


1. 어떤 운동을 제일 잘하게 할 수 있어요? → Which sport are you the best at?

(eotteon undongeul jeil jalhage hal su isseoyo?)


2. 한국말을 할 줄 알아요? → Can you speak Korean?

(hangungmareul hal jul arayo?)


3. 오늘 차를 가져 가도 될까요? → Can I take the car today?

(oneul chareul gajyeo gado doelkkayo?)



1. 오늘 나를 좀 도와줄 수 있을까? → Can you help me out a little today?

(oneul nareul jom dowajul su isseulkka?)


2. 프랑스어를 하나도 못하는데 독일어를 유창하게 할 줄 알아. → Although I cannot speak French at all, I am fluent in German.

(peurangseueoreul hanado mothaneunde dogireoreul yuchanghage hal jul ara.)


Want more Korean phrases? Click here for a complete list!


Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto


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14 thoughts on “How To Say ‘Can’ In Korean”

    1. You can say “~ㄹ/을 수 있어요?” for “please can you ~?”. For example, 먹을 수 있어요? (=please can you eat?) or 요리할 수 있어요? (=please can you cook?)

  1. How do you say the negative forms of these? Like “can’t”. I often want to say to myself “I can’t see” and I forget how to say it all the time

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