Grammar Info
N4 Lesson 8: 16/18

ことが出来(でき)る
Can, Be able to

Structure
Casual
Formal
Verb + こと + + できる
Noun + + できる
Verb + こと + + できます
Noun + + できます
Details
Register Standard
使用域 一般
Information
Like ことがある, ことができる is an expression that nominalizes what comes before it (turns it into a noun-phrase), and then highlights something about that (A) phrase. In the case of ことができる, the thing being highlighted about (A) is that it is ‘possible’. This translates as ‘can do (A)’, or ‘to be able to do (A)’.
  • 魚(さかな)のように泳(およ)ことができるように毎日(まいにち)練習(れんしゅう)する
    I practice everyday so that I will be able to swim like a fish.
  • 彼(かれ)料理(りょうり)することができる
    He is able to cook.
However, こと is only required when the (A) phrase needs nominalization (is not a noun to begin with). Due to this, ができる may be used by itself when following a noun, without changing the meaning.
  • 運転(うんてん)ができる彼氏(かれし)が欲(ほ)しい
    I want a boyfriend that can drive.
  • 力仕事(ちからしごと)ができる人(ひと)探(さが)しています
    We are looking for a person that is able to do physical labor.
Fun Fact
のが (or のは) is also frequently used for nominalization, but this is rarely the case when a verb follows it. Some other expressions where のが may not be swapped for こと are as follows:
ことがある - For (A) to exist.
ことにする - To make something (A).
ことになる - For (A) to come to be.
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馬(うま)乗(の)ることができる
I can ride a horse.
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泳(およ)ぐことができます
Can you swim?
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初(はじ)めて漢字(かんじ)書(か)くことができた
I was able to write kanji for the first time.
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Books
みんなの日本語 I
Page 116 [CH 18]
みんなの日本語 II
Page 18 [CH 27]
[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
Page 10 & 200
Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
Page 126