Showing Potential In Nepali

This lesson can make you a better person…or perhaps not. To be or not to be; clearly we do see a homage being paid to Shakespeare…perhaps not. We can’t really see anything much now so let’s learn how to show Potentiality in Nepali!

So, what does it mean ‘to show potential’? Read these sentences:

John is able to write poems” 

Mr. Durose can cook food“ 

Did you notice something common between the two sentences? Both display someone’s or something’s ability to ’Do’ a certain action. In English, you show such using auxiliaries like ’can’ or ’able to’. So, ’John’ is ’able’ to ’write something’, which happens to be poems whereas ’Mr. Durose’ ‘can’ ‘cook something’, which happens to be…food. Therefore, in both cases, there is a display of potential (to do an action) in both the subjects.


So how do you show Potentiality in Nepali? 

If you have gone through the list of verbs, you might have noticed the verb सक्नु (saknu)….whoops it is not there. Well, then I will tell you what it is….

सक्नु (saknu) has a meaning of ’To Finish’. As such, you can say:

खाना सक्यो (khaanaa sakyo)

=  The meal was finished.

However, it has another meaning too! The another meaning is ’to be able to do something’. However, this meaning applies only when it is conjoined with an infinitive form (~na). I will tell about infinitives later! It is important to know Potentiality currently…

First, let’s learn how to make that ~na form of Verb. Take the basic form of verb (say खानु ’khanu’; to eat) and then we convert that  ‘उ’ (u/ like ’u’ of ‘put’) sound into an अ (a/ like ’a’ of ’ago’) sound. So, खानु (khanu) will turn into खान (khana). Visually speaking, that ’ukar’ ( ु ) gets removed…


Now, the formula is:

~Na form of X Verb + Saknu

= To be able to do X Verb’s Action


Khana + Saknu

= To be able to do ‘Eat’

= To be able to eat


So, when ~na form of verb is conjoined with ’saknu’, then it conveys a meaning of ’To be able to do what that ‘na’ form of verb does’. Note that these two are written as one entity and conjugation affects the ‘saknu’ verb and not the ’~na verb’. That means, the newly form verb is treated as one.

So, ‘खानसक्नु’ (khanasaknu) means ‘To be able to eat’. 



Using it is very simple! We use it just like normal verbs, with conjugation affecting ’saknu’. Let’s see an example sentence:

जन भात खानसक्छ (jan bhat khanasakcha)

= John can eat Rice.

Here, the verb conjugation ‘खानसक्छ’ (khanasakcha/ 3rd person singular) shows that ’John’ is able to ’eat rice’. Hence, John can eat rice….or McDonalds maybe if he is tired of eating rice all the time in my articles…

We have been seeing Positive Potentiality all that time…but what if John cannot eat rice? 

We use Negative Conjugation. Using Negative form of ’saknu’ gives us an idea that ’the X verb’s action cannot be performed’. Example:

जन भात खानसक्दैन (jan bhat khanasakdaina)

= John cannot eat rice. 

So, using Negative conjugations display negative potential.



हामीले यो काम गर्नसक्छौँ  (hami le yo kaam garnasakchau)

= We can do this work.

मेरी पाँच बर्षकी  भएपनि ऊ चिट्ठी लेख्नसक्छे (meri paach barsha ki bhae pani u chitthi lekhnasakche)

= Even though Mary is only 5 years old, she can write letters.

मेरो छोराले चिट्ठी त लेख्नसक्दैन (hoina hola… mero chora le chitti ta lekhnasakdaina)

= My son cannot write letters (yet).

यहाँ दुर्घटना हुनसक्दैन (yaha durghatana hunasakdaina)

= Accidents cannot happen here.


डाक्टरहरुले कहिलेकाहि गल्ति गर्न सक्छ (daktar haru le kahilekahi galti garna sakcha)

= Doctors can make mistakes sometimes.




1. अमृत खाने व्यक्ति मर्नसक्दैन 

2.  जन कुद्नसक्छ 


1. John can count till ten.

2. To be able to dance.


ANSWERS (illustrative purposes only)

A. 1. People who have drank Ambriosa (amrit) cannot die.

A. 2. John can Run.

B.1. जन १० सम्म गन्नसक्छ  (jan dash samma gannasakcha)

B. 2. नाच्नसक्नु (naachnasaknu)