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The differences between “能” and “会”

Mar. 12, 2013

The correct answer is B.

Translation:

               Hǎo lěng a!
 Li Ming:好     冷  啊!

               What a cold day!

               Shìde. Míngtiān kěnéng huì xiàxuě.
Wang Li:是的。    明天       可能     下雪。

                Yes. It might snow tomorrow.

Explanation:

This Chinese test aims to test your knowledge about the Chinese words 能 (néng) and 会 (huì). In English, the auxiliary verb “can” has different shades of meaning. For example, “I can speak Chinese.” is “我说汉语。(Wǒ huì shuō hàn yǔ).” But the sentence “I cannot come tomorrow.” is “我明天不能来。(Wǒ míngtiān bùnéng lái.)” Let’s look at each one in detail.

1. 会 (huì)

a) 会 (huì): “to know how to do something” or “to be able to do something” (i.e. learned or acquired skills)

Examples:

Wǒ huì yóuyǒng.
我    会     游泳。

I can swim.

Wǒ māma huì zuòfàn.
我    妈妈   会    做饭。

My mom can cook.

b) 会 (huì): will or shall

Examples:

Nǐ fàngxīn, míngtiān wǒ huì zhǔnshí lái.
你   放心,   明天      我    准时    来。

Don’t worry; I will come on time tomorrow.

Wǒ huì chǔlǐ zhè jiàn shì.
我      处理  这   件   事。

I will handle this issue.

2. 能 (néng)

a) 能 (néng): meaning “to be able to do something (at a certain level).”

Tā néng hē shípíng píjiǔ.
他    能    喝    十瓶   啤酒。

He can drink ten bottles of beer.

b) 能 (néng): used to talk about a recovered ability.

Tā de tuǐ hǎo le, yòu néng zǒulù le.
他  的  腿  好 了,又       走路  了。

His leg is recovered, he can walk again. (ability)

c) 能(néng): used to ask for permission/allowance.

Wǒ  néng jìnlai ma?
我        进来  吗?

May I come in?

Now, let’s look back at the conversation at the beginning. Li Ming and Wang Li are talking about today’s weather. Wang Li says that “明天可能下雪 (Míngtiān kěnéng huì xiàxuě).” 会 (huì) takes on the meaning of “will.”

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