Advanced potential complements

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You may have a handle on the typical potential complements, but there are a few other fairly common ones that you still need to master. Each is addressed separately here.

Verbs with -不了 and -得了

Structure

This pattern is used to talk about whether or not you are able to do something. It is subtly different from using 不能 because -不了 usually suggests some external factor out of one's control.

Verb + 得 / 不 + 了

Examples

  • 他 那么 老 ,走 了 那么 多 路 吗 ?Tā nàme lǎo, zǒu liǎo nàme duō lù ma?He's so old. Will he be able to walk that far?
  • 今晚 我 有 事 ,去 了 。Jīn wǎn wǒ yǒushì, qù liǎo.I have things to do tonight. I won't be able to go.
  • 这 件 衣服 太 小 了 ,我 穿 了 。Zhè jiàn yīfú tài xiǎo le, wǒ chuān liǎo.This piece of clothing is too small. I won't be able to wear it.
  • 这 件 事情 只 有 你 帮 了 我 。Zhè jiàn shìqíng zhǐyǒu nǐ bāng liǎo wǒ.You're the only one who is able to help me with this.
  • 他 没 什么 经验 ,处理 了 这样 的 问题 。Tā méishénme jīngyàn, chǔlǐ liǎo zhèyàng de wèntí.He doesn't have much experience. He is not able deal with this kind of problem.

Verbs with -不下 and -得下

Structure

This is used to talk about whether or not something will fit or go somewhere. 常见的动词:放、坐、住、装、吃。

Verb + 得 / 不 + 下

Examples

  • 我 吃 饱 了 ,真的 吃 不 下 了 。Wǒ chī bǎo le, zhēn de chī bù xià le.I'm full. I don't feel like eating more.
  • 你 包 里 放 得 下 那么 多 东西 吗 ?Nǐ bāo lǐ fàng dé xià nàme duō dōngxī ma?Can your bag hold that many things?
  • 我 的 车 太 小 ,坐 不 下 五 个 人 。 Wǒ de chē tài xiǎo, zuò bù xià wǔ gèrén.My car is too small. Five people will not fit in it.
  • 我 的 箱子 这么 大 ,肯定 装 得 下 这些 衣服 。Wǒ de xiāngzi zhème dà, kěndìng zhuāng dé xià zhèxiē yīfú.I'm sure my suitcase is big enough for these clothes.
  • 你 一个人 拿 得 下 这么 多 东西 吗 ?Nǐ yīgè rén ná dé xià zhème duō dōngxī ma?Can you carry all these thing?

Verbs with -不起 and -得起

Structure

Verb + 得 / 不 + 起 + Obj.

Examples

  • 那 件 衣服 是 你 两 个 月 的 工资 ,买 得 起 吗?Nà jiàn yīfú shì nǐ liǎng gè yuè de gōngzī, mǎi dé qǐ ma?That piece of clothing is worth two months of your salary. Can you afford to buy it?
  • 这 家 餐厅 太 贵 了 ,我们 吃 不 起Zhè jiā cāntīng tài guìle, wǒmen chī bù qǐ.This restaurant is too expensive. We can't afford to eat here.
  • 这些 化妆品 很 贵 ,我 用 不 起Zhèxiē huàzhuāngpǐn hěn guì, wǒ yòng bù qǐ.This makeup is very expensive. I can't afford it.
  • 这里 房子 的 租金 最少 也 要 一 万 块 ,你 租 得 起 吗 ?Zhèlǐ fángzi de zūjīn zuìshǎo yě yào yī wàn kuài, nǐ zū dé qǐ ma?This apartment's rent is at least 10,000 RMB. Can you afford to rent it?
  • 很 多 人 不 生 二胎 不是 因为 不 想 要 ,是 因为 成本 太 高 ,养 不 起Hěnduō rén bù shēng èr tāi bùshì yīn wéi bùxiǎng yào, shì yīn wéi chéngběn tài gāo, yǎng bù qǐ.Many people don't get pregnant twice not because they don't want to. It's because the cost is too high, they can't afford to raise more kids.

Verbs with -不动 and -得动

Structure

The potential complement -不动 is used to express lack of physical ability to do something. This can be used not only with actions like walking, running or climbing, but even actions like eating and chewing.

Verb + 得 / 不 + 动

Examples

  • 我 走 不 动 了,我们 休息 一下 吧 !Wǒ zǒu bù dòng le, wǒmen xiūxí yīxià ba!I can't keep going. I need to rest a bit.
  • 等等 我,我 跑 不 动 了!Děng děng wǒ, wǒ pǎo bù dòng le!Wait for me. I can't keep running.
  • 你 才 一百 斤 ,我 背 得 动 你 。Nǐ cái yībǎi jīn, wǒ bèi dé dòng nǐ.You are only 50 kilograms. I can carry you.
  • 孩子 真的 长大 了,妈妈 都 抱 不 动 了 。Háizi zhēn de zhǎng dà le, māmā dōu bào bù dòng le.The child is all grown up. His mother can't hold him anymore.
  • 这么 重 ,他 一个人 搬 得 动 吗 ?Zhème zhòng, tā yīgè rén bān dé dòng ma?It's so heavy. Can he move it by himself?

Verbs with -不着 and -得着

Structure

表示动作有能力做到某事。"着"读作zháo。

Verb + 得 / 不 + 着

Examples

  • 太 高 了 ,我 够 不 着Tài gāo le, wǒ gòu bù zháo.It's too high. I can't reach it.
  • 这么 吵 ,你 睡 得 着 吗 ?Zhème chǎo, nǐ shuì dé zháo ma?It's so noisy. Can you sleep?
  • 太 难 了 ,我 猜 不 着Tài nán le, wǒ cāi bù zháo.It's too hard. I can't guess.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

HSK5