Negative potential complement

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DernierVirage

Senior Member
English - United Kingdom
Good morning !

I hope that you can help me to understand the following sentence that I found in some grammar notes that were given to me.

"电视机被老王修得不完"

Can someone explain to me why is used here before , rather than simply saying修不完?

Thanks very much for your help.
 
  • avlee

    Senior Member
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    First off, what book or dictionary does this sentence come from?
    The last four characters don't make any sense to me.
    I'd skip this part of that section if I have to read through that book.
    Usually, I'd just simply throw away the suspected pirated copies to save my mind from being poisoned and tortured.
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks for your reply - to answer your question, it was a printed set of notes that my previous Putonghua teacher gave me.

    In fact, the sentence was one a number of examples of the 被词句, but it was the negation of the verb that created the problem for me....

    I read the sentence as meaning "the TV set can't be repaired by lao Wang"
     

    avlee

    Senior Member
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    Then the Chinese sentence is completely wrong if it's for "the TV set can't be repaired by lao Wang". Actually, if anyone does come up with one English sentence for that Chinese word string, I'd bow down to him/her, because grammatically, the sentence itself is incorrect or at least weird.
    I could only figure out 老王修不了这台电视机 to match the English version, which is the only one sounds reasonable to me in terms of grammar.
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Then the Chinese sentence is completely wrong if it's for "the TV set can't be repaired by lao Wang".
    I could only figure out 老王修不了这台电视机 to match the English version, which is the only one sounds reasonable to me in terms of grammar.
    Thanks.

    Is 修不了usually used in the spoken rather than written language? Also, would you say that 修不完 or 不能修得完 would also work here?
     

    avlee

    Senior Member
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    修不了 could be used in both spoken and written language. It means can't be repaired.
    修不完 means can't finish repairing it.
    不能修得完 means 修不完.
    The latter two phrases usually mean there's too much work to be done.
    They don't work in the original Chinese word string you post. Sounds weird to natives.
     
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    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    被 in negative is similar to any other sentence in negative.
    電視機被老王修好了 The TV set is repaired by Wang.
    電視機沒有被老王修好 The TV set has not been fixed by Wang (he tried to fix but failed)
    電視機不能被老王修 The TV set cannot be fixed by Wang (he is not allowed to fix it)
    電視機沒有辦法被老王修好 The TV set is not able to be fixed by Wang. Wang doesn't have the capability to fix the TV.
    沒有電視機能被老王修好 There are no TV set that can be repaired by Wang. Wang can't fix any TV Set.

    Hopefully that's clear for you. :)
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Hello DV. As you're probably aware, the passive construction is not something really natural in a Topic-Comment language. It's highly "marked" with a negative connotation, especially in natural, colloquial speech. When someone got killed, I'd use 被. But when a tv set got fixed, I won't use that.
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Avlee, JJchang and Ghabi - thanks to all of you for your help above!

    It seems that the example in my grammar notes is not very well drafted anyway, which doesn't help!

    I have tried to carefully follow all your examples and comments above, can I check one further point with you arising from these remarks. I have changed the example a bit to make it easier and also to avoid using the 被 structure.

    Am I right in saying that:

    昨天的功课我没做完 means that I didn't finish (but for no particular reason)
    昨天的功课我做不完 means that I didn't finish specifically because I didn't have the ability to do so

    and that, going back to my initial question,

    昨天的功课我做得不完 is totally incorrect in any circumstances.

    Thanks very much!
     
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    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    Hello DV. As you're probably aware, the passive construction is not something really natural in a Topic-Comment language. It's highly "marked" with a negative connotation, especially in natural, colloquial speech. When someone got killed, I'd use 被. But when a tv set got fixed, I won't use that.
    I'd say that depends on the context. "今天電視機怎麼突然好了?" "電視機被老王修好了" It all depends on what's the emphasis here and what's the subject. If the question or the sentence leading up to the response has the TV as the subject, then it is less natural to reply using a different subject.

    昨天的功课我没做完 means that I didn't finish (but for no particular reason)
    昨天的功课我做不完 means that I didn't finish specifically because I didn't have the ability to do so
    昨天的功课我没做完 I haven't finished the homework from yesterday.
    昨天的功课我做不完 I cannot finish the homework from yesterday.

    Both sentences are in present tense, otherwise you need to say 昨天的功课我昨天没做完, 昨天的功课我昨天做不完.

    Other than that, I think you get the idea of this type of negation.
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    I'd say that depends on the context. "今天電視機怎麼突然好了?" "電視機被老王修好了" It all depends on what's the emphasis here and what's the subject. If the question or the sentence leading up to the response has the TV as the subject, then it is less natural to reply using a different subject.
    My Putonghua teacher (who is from Beijing) told me that the TV repair sentence would be OK with the 被 structure as long as we are saying that it could not be repaired, thereby maintaining the use of 被 in situations with a negative feeling...

    昨天的功课我没做完 I haven't finished the homework from yesterday.
    昨天的功课我做不完 I cannot finish the homework from yesterday.

    Both sentences are in present tense, otherwise you need to say 昨天的功课我昨天没做完, 昨天的功课我昨天做不完.

    Other than that, I think you get the idea of this type of negation.
    Perfect, thanks very much !
     
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    linglin66

    Member
    Chinese
    電視機不能被老王修 The TV set cannot be fixed by Wang (he is not allowed to fix it)
    坦白地说,这句中文实在太别扭了。如果说wang is not allowed to fix TV set中文可以说:不允许老王修理电视机。

    電視機沒有辦法被老王修好 The TV set is not able to be fixed by Wang. Wang doesn't have the capability to fix the TV.
    老王没有修电视机的本事(能力)。

    沒有電視機能被老王修好 There are no TV set that can be repaired by Wang. Wang can't fix any TV Set.
    老王修不了电视机。
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    電視機不能被老王修 The TV set cannot be fixed by Wang (he is not allowed to fix it)
    坦白地说,这句中文实在太别扭了。如果说wang is not allowed to fix TV set中文可以说:不允许老王修理电视机。

    電視機沒有辦法被老王修好 The TV set is not able to be fixed by Wang. Wang doesn't have the capability to fix the TV.
    老王没有修电视机的本事(能力)。

    沒有電視機能被老王修好 There are no TV set that can be repaired by Wang. Wang can't fix any TV Set.
    老王修不了电视机。
    In the last example you give, can we say

    一台电视机老王也不会修

    instead of using the 修不了structure?
     

    linglin66

    Member
    Chinese
    我感谢你!

    我还有一个问题﹕〝他不会修〞和〝他修不了〞一样的吗﹖
    仔细想也不完全一样,两者可以构成因果关系,因为“不会”,所以“修不了”。但是,也可能“会修”,但没有所需的零配件而“修不了”。
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    電視機不能被老王修 The TV set cannot be fixed by Wang (he is not allowed to fix it)
    坦白地说,这句中文实在太别扭了。如果说wang is not allowed to fix TV set中文可以说:不允许老王修理电视机。

    電視機沒有辦法被老王修好 The TV set is not able to be fixed by Wang. Wang doesn't have the capability to fix the TV.
    老王没有修电视机的本事(能力)。

    沒有電視機能被老王修好 There are no TV set that can be repaired by Wang. Wang can't fix any TV Set.
    老王修不了电视机。
    第一句一點問題都沒有, "秘密不能被他知道" "電視機不能被他修"
    "沒有電視機能被老王修好" is stronger than 老王修不了電視機

    In the last example you give, can we say

    一台电视机老王也不会修

    instead of using the 修不了structure?
    一台電視機老王也不會修 the order of words is very strange.
    老王一台電視機都不會修 is better, but this gives the impression that it is easy to repair TVs. "Wang doesn't even know how to fix a TV"
    老王什麼電視都不會修 老王什麼電視也不會修Wang cannot fix any TV.
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    電視機不能被老王修 The TV set cannot be fixed by Wang (he is not allowed to fix it)
    坦白地说,这句中文实在太别扭了。如果说wang is not allowed to fix TV set中文可以说:不允许老王修理电视机。

    電視機沒有辦法被老王修好 The TV set is not able to be fixed by Wang. Wang doesn't have the capability to fix the TV.
    老王没有修电视机的本事(能力)。

    沒有電視機能被老王修好 There are no TV set that can be repaired by Wang. Wang can't fix any TV Set.
    老王修不了电视机。
    I agree with you. When I hear these sentences, I’d think that it’s a foreigner speaking. Would a native Chinese speak this way? I find it hard to conjure up such a native speaker. But who knows.

    @DV: The ball rolls back to your court, again! The perennial question for any language learner: do you want to sound like a native or a foreigner?;)
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    ...........
    @DV: The ball rolls back to your court, again! The perennial question for any language learner: do you want to sound like a native or a foreigner?;)
    Sadly I can't see myself ever sounding like a native :(, but that said I enjoy trying to improve my understanding of the different shades of meaning, even with the use of "potential complements", which give me a lot of trouble.

    What I have learned from the answers in this thread is that it is very hard to know the best way in a given situation to express the idea of failing to complete an action, given that the reason can be lack of time, lack of ability, lack of desire etc.

    For example, I really hesitate between the following (even though most of this has been well explained to me above):

    没修
    修不完
    修不了
    修不好
    不能修得完 (or了or 好)
    不会修 etc....

    ...not to mention the additional problem of deciding when I should or shouldn't use either the topic comment structure, the 把词句 or the 被词句 for the appropriate emphasis.

    All the answers here have been really useful, I just need time to put them all together and keep on practising !
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    do you want to sound like a native or a foreigner?;)
    Yes, I of course do want to sound like a native but still sound like a foreigner! ;)

    the following sentence that I found in some grammar notes that were given to me.
    "电视机被老王修得不完"
    Can someone explain to me why is used here before , rather than simply saying修不完?
    I think the sentence is probably meant to be:
    "电视机被老王修得/不完" (both positive & negative versions are given)



    Apart from this, I sometimes see native speaker/ teachers give stilted, unnatural examples in textbooks (when they have perhaps forgot to think of a realistic context for their examples).
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Yes, I of course do want to sound like a native but still sound like a foreigner! ;)

    I think the sentence is probably meant to be:
    "电视机被老王修得/不完" (both positive & negative versions are given)

    Apart from this, I sometimes see native speaker/ teachers give stilted, unnatural examples in textbooks (when they have perhaps forgot to think of a realistic context for their examples).
    Thanks - I'd never even thought of this, you could very well be right about the sentence simply trying to show the two possibilities :)

    Yes, I've noticed that frequently the examples used never seem to impress native speakers ! (for some reason, potential complement and 被词句 examples often fall into this category...).
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    it is very hard to know the best way in a given situation to express the idea of failing to complete an action, given that the reason can be lack of time, lack of ability, lack of desire etc.
    I'm a learner too and I think the main reason for this difficulty is the lack of the opportunity to be exposed to the language and to use it (i.e, I don't find them hard to differentiate, just hard to remember when to use what :)).
    Language use is a set of habits and as long as we have the condition for the habits to be set, then we are set! ;)
     
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    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    For example, I really hesitate between the following (even though most of this has been well explained to me above):
    1. 没修 - Did not even attempt.
    2. 修不完 - Attempted but the job is incomplete.
    3. 修不了- May or may not attempted. It can not be repaired due to time/capability or any other constraints.
    4. 修不好 - Attempted but unsuccessful.
    5. 不能修得完 - May or may not attempted. The speaker predicts that the job can not be completed within the stipulated time frame.
    6. 不会修 - May or may not attempted. Basically, the speaker hasn't a clue how to fix/repair.
    Note: 修完 and 修好 may or may not mean the same thing.

    In the last example you give, can we say

    一台电视机老王也不会修

    instead of using the 修不了structure?
    Just add a "连" in front of your sentence will do the job.
    Context: 老王has been working as a TV technician for 6 months but he has yet to pick up the trade. You might hear this from colleagues. :)
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    1. 没修 - Did not even attempt.
    2. 修不完 - Attempted but the job is incomplete.
    3. 修不了- May or may not attempted. It can not be repaired due to time/capability or any other constraints.
    4. 修不好 - Attempted but unsuccessful.
    5. 不能修得完 - May or may not attempted. The speaker predicts that the job can not be completed within the stipulated time frame.
    6. 不会修 - May or may not attempted. Basically, the speaker hasn't a clue how to fix/repair.
    Note: 修完 and 修好 may or may not mean the same thing.
    This is very helpful indeed, thank you :). In fact, your list also highlights one of the problems I have, which is the difference between the use of 好,完 and 了 as complements.

    I have written some examples based on the above list and I would welcome any comments that you or the others may have:

    If the situation is a student who has not finished his homework, are the following correct ?:

    1. If he wants to just say that he hasn't finished his homework, without any explanation (this may sound a bit rude in this context perhaps):
    昨天的功课我没做完 (I guess that we would not normally use 好 or了 here)

    2. If he wants to say that he started but couldn't finish:
    昨天的功课我做不好 (suggests that he had difficulty with the work)
    昨天的功课我做不完 (the reason for not finishing is not made clear)

    3. It seems to me that we would not say 昨天的功课我做不了, unless the student wants to avoid even saying whether he started the work

    4. As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完

    I hope that I am not over-complicating things here, anyway I appreciate all the help I am getting!
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    1. If he wants to just say that he hasn't finished his homework, without any explanation (this may sound a bit rude in this context perhaps):
    昨天的功课我没做完 (I guess that we would not normally use 好 or了 here) 還没做好 is also okay.

    2. If he wants to say that he started but couldn't finish:
    :tick:昨天的功课我做不好 (suggests that he had difficulty with the work)
    :tick:昨天的功课我做不完 (the reason for not finishing is not made clear)

    3. It seems to me that we would not say 昨天的功课我做不了, unless the student wants to avoid even saying whether he started the work 做不了/做不來/做不好 are quite similar, but the former two sound more like "it's beyond my capability ..." For homework I'd use 做不好.

    4. As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完 I'm not sure what you intent to say, but it doesn't sound natural.
    The tricky thing is, different verbs call for different collocations. For example, 这鬼东西太重了,我拿不起 "I can't lift this sucker. It's too heavy."
     

    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    1. If he wants to just say that he hasn't finished his homework, without any explanation (this may sound a bit rude in this context perhaps):
    昨天的功课我没做完 (I guess that we would not normally use 好 or了 here)
    If your intention is to sound (a bit) rude, you should say "昨天的功课我没做" -> Unless a valid reason is given, the speaker seems indifferent and could not be bothered.

    昨天的功课我没做完/昨天的功课我没做完 -> This suggests that you have attempted the homework but, for some reasons, you couldn't finished at the time of speaking. But this doesn't sound rude to my ears.

    2. If he wants to say that he started but couldn't finish:
    昨天的功课我做不好 (suggests that he had difficulty with the work)
    :tick: 昨天的功课我做不完 (the reason for not finishing is not made clear)
    Your second sentence is correct. No dispute.

    For your first sentence, 昨天的功课我做不好, I find it vague and, to certain extend, confusing. I've heard primary school kids said this but it sounds colloquial at best or at worst, broken.
    昨天的功课我做不好 - I would interpret it as the speaker attempted the homework but encountered difficulties. But we are unsure if the homework is completed or otherwise. For the same meaning, I much prefer "昨天的功课我做不好"

    If you want to have all the information (started, couldn't finish, had difficulty), I would say "昨天的功课太难了,我做不完".

    3. It seems to me that we would not say 昨天的功课我做不了(le), unless the student wants to avoid even saying whether he started the work
    Yes and No.
    You are absolutely right if we limit the scope to 了(le) which functions as a particle. In this case, 了(le) is used to modify the state of the verb 做. 做不了(le) is incorrect because 了(le) can not modify the word 不 which is not a verb.

    It makes sense if 了(liao3) is a verb. 做不了(liao3) means 'not capable to do something'.

    4. As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完.
    You said 'past event' but your example is "今晚 ... 今天"!!??

    In any case, "不能做得完" is not idiomatic. I don't know why but we usually drop the "得" here. -> "不能做完" or "做不完"

    So, "今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做完". Since this is making a prediction which may or may not be accurate. You may want to soften the tone by adding words like "应该", "可能" or "也许".

    "今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我 应该/也许 不能做完"


    Hope this helps. :)
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Ghabi and BODYholic - thanks for taking so much trouble to reply, I really appreciate these detailed comments!

    I will need a day or so to study and digest all this information, but I once I have finished everything I will probably be back here to double check on some points again, if I may...

    Just to clarify one point in my previous post, I seem to have confused both of you when I said:

    " As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完 "

    Apologies, this was my bad English ;) - what I wanted to confirm was whether this structure is usually not used in the past, BUT it is OK to use if we are referring to a present or future event - hence my example. Sorry about that.

    Once again, thanks a lot - and I will be back :)
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    " As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完 "

    Apologies, this was my bad English ;) - what I wanted to confirm was whether this structure is usually not used in the past, BUT it is OK to use if we are referring to a present or future event - hence my example. Sorry about that.
    The combination "不能+verb+完" has another meaning, and it should be followed by something. For example, 你不能吃完饭马上睡觉,这样对身体不好。"You can't go straight to sleep after eating. That's not healthy." For the meaning "can't finish", you have to use "verb+不完". For example, 这么多菜,我一个人吃不完。 "No way for me to chow down so many dishes!"
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    " As regards the use of 不能, am I right to say that this would not normally be used to refer to a past event? However, could we say:
    今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完 "

    Apologies, this was my bad English ;) - what I wanted to confirm was whether this structure is usually not used in the past, BUT it is OK to use if we are referring to a present or future event - hence my example. Sorry about that.
    Just from my limited experience:
    1. 不能 can also be used for past events (You'll also see 没能 used in this way).
    2. 不能做得完: 不能 expresses potentiality and 做得完 also expresses potentiality. So nomally you should see either 不能做完 or 做不完. However, it's not uncommon to see 不能做得完 (just as it's not uncommon to see the double negative in English).
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    I've been carefully piecing together all your helpful replies above, can I check a few points again with you?

    A. 昨天的功课我做不好

    Interestingly, there is a big difference of opinion between Ghabi and BODYholic on my sentence:

    - Ghabi's reply:
    " :tick:昨天的功课我做不好 (suggests that he had difficulty with the work) "

    - BODYholic's reply:
    " For your first sentence, 昨天的功课我做不好, I find it vague and, to certain extend, confusing. I've heard primary school kids said this but it sounds colloquial at best or at worst, broken.
    昨天的功课我做不好 - I would interpret it as the speaker attempted the homework but encountered difficulties. But we are unsure if the homework is completed or otherwise. For the same meaning, I much prefer "昨天的功课我做不好" "

    I also mention that BODYholic's suggestion "昨天的功课我做不好" actually used the "...不..." structure that started off this whole thread and which an earlier post said was not a normal structure to use.

    B. 不能做得完

    Again, two different views on this:

    - Xiaolijie's reply:
    "However, it's not uncommon to see 不能做得完 (just as it's not uncommon to see the double negative in English). "

    - BODYholic's reply:
    "能做得完" is not idiomatic. I don't know why but we usually drop the "得" here. -> "不能做完" or "做不完"

    Any extra thoughts would be very welcome!

    C. Last question, if I have understood all your advice, I think that the two following sentences carry exactly the same meaning and nuances (namely that the homework has not been completed, without stating if it was even begun and without indicating whether this was due to lack of time, lack of ability, lack of desire etc.):

    昨天的功课我没做完
    昨天的功课我做不

    Thanks again to everyone for your time and trouble !
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    My two yuans:

    -昨天的功课太难了,我怎样做也做不好。Literally: “Yesterday’s homework is too difficult. I couldn’t do it well no matter how hard I tried.”

    -昨天的功课,我只看了一眼,就知道太难了,根本做不了,所以没做。Literally: “A single glance at yesterday’s homework told me that it is beyond my ability. So I didn’t do it.”

    -昨天的功课我做得不好,被老师修理了一顿。Literally: “I didn’t do yesterday’s homework properly. So I was called to the carpet by the teacher.” Note that 修理 can be used in the passive voice when it means “to reprimand” instead of “to repair”.

    -昨天晚上我太困了,所以昨天的功课我还没做完。Literally: “I was too sleepy last night. So I didn’t finish my homework.”

    -Personally I never say 不能做得完 or 不能做完.
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Ghabi: I have read your reply above - thanks. Am I right in thinking then that the problem with my examples is that I have used very short, simple sentences? It seems to me from reading your (and others') answers that a lot depends on the rest of the sentence, which of course in real life is usually more explicit in terms of meaning?

    In other words, it not really possible to say which is the "right" complement to use, unless there is already much more information stated, rather than just implied? Which means, logically, that you cannot depend only on the complement (完,好,了) or the verb structure (能,会) to give the full depth of meaning?
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    Again, two different views on this:

    - Xiaolijie's reply:
    "However, it's not uncommon to see 不能做得完 (just as it's not uncommon to see the double negative in English). "

    - BODYholic's reply:
    "能做得完" is not idiomatic. I don't know why but we usually drop the "得" here. -> "不能做完" or "做不完"
    No, they are not really different. It's just the way you quoted what I said that makes it appear to be so ;). Here's what I said:
    nomally you should see either 不能做完 or 做不完. However, it's not uncommon to see 不能做得完
    It means that you can see 不能做得完 but 不能做完 and 做不完 are more of the norm.
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    No, they are not really different. It's just the way you quoted what I said that makes it appear to be so ;). Here's what I said:
    It means that you can see 不能做得完 but 不能做完 and 做不完 are more of the norm.
    Apologies for having "misquoted" you, it was completely unintentional :eek:...

    I was getting completely tangled up in all my points and this was the unfortunate result!
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    Apologies for having "misquoted" you, it was completely unintentional :eek:...
    Don't worry. I was not offended or meant in any negative way. Only wanted to clarify. :)

    DernierVirage said:
    "昨天的功课我做不好" actually used the "...不..." structure that started off this whole thread and which an earlier post said was not a normal structure to use.
    This is an interesting point, as 做不好 seems ok whereas something appearing very similar such as 修得不完 seems not.
    Since trying to point out the difference between the above two phrases in a short post may lead to further confusion, I'll just put it simply as below and hope that it may help somehow:
    Although in appearance the two phrases look the same, 修得不完 is not ok as a Potential Complement structure (see the Heading you gave to this thread). 做不好 on the other hand is perfectly ok as it is a structure involving a Complement of Degree. Along with 做不好, you can have similar structures such as 做得很好, 做得非常好,which are all complements of degree.
    That is to say, the bit 得不 is problematic in a Potential Complement structure (Some more unacceptable Potential Complement structures for you to consider: 看得不懂,记得不住, 睡得不着, etc.) but not in a Degree Complement structure. So if you change 修得不完 into a complement-of-degree expression, there should be no longer a problem: 修得不好, 修得很快, etc.
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    The tricky thing is, different verbs call for different collocations. For example, 这鬼东西太重了,我拿不起 "I can't lift this sucker. It's too heavy."
    Would it also be acceptable to express this as follows ? :

    这鬼东西太重了,我不能拿起
    我不能拿起这鬼东西,它太重了

    The first sentence doesn't sound quite right though...

    ...This is an interesting point, as 做得不好 seems ok whereas something appearing very similar such as 修得不完 seems not.
    Since trying to point out the difference between the above two phrases in a short post may lead to further confusion, I'll just put it simply as below and hope that it may help somehow:
    Although in appearance the two phrases look the same, 修得不完 is not ok as a Potential Complement structure (see the Heading you gave to this thread). 做得不好 on the other hand is perfectly ok as it is a structure involving a Complement of Degree. Along with 做不好, you can have similar structures such as 做得很好, 做得非常好,which are all complements of degree.
    That is to say, the bit 得不 is problematic in a Potential Complement structure (Some more unacceptable Potential Complement structures for you to consider: 看得不懂,记得不住, 睡得不着, etc.) but not in a Degree Complement structure. So if you change 修得不完 into a complement-of-degree expression, there should be no longer a problem: 修得不好, 修得很快, etc.
    Thanks for your very helpful reply, where I have highlighted the issue that seems to be key. You are right - that I was so focused on the potential complement aspects of all the examples that I forgot to consider any other types of complement !

    Following your reasoning, the phrase "昨天的功课我做不好" is not referring to the fact that the work could not be completed, but is stressing the fact that the quality was not poor (without even saying whether ithe work was finished or not).

    I am thinking that this may be why BODYholic and Ghabi had diverging views on my sentence "昨天的功课我做不好"; since 好 can be used both as a potential complement and a complement of degree, does this sentence sound ambiguous (or strange) when it is in the negative? Maybe the best approach is therefore to stick to 完 or了when referring to the lack of ability to finish something and avoid using 好 completely....
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Ghabi: I have read your reply above - thanks. Am I right in thinking then that the problem with my examples is that I have used very short, simple sentences? It seems to me from reading your (and others') answers that a lot depends on the rest of the sentence, which of course in real life is usually more explicit in terms of meaning?
    You can say it again!

    Would it also be acceptable to express this as follows ? :

    这鬼东西太重了,我不能拿起
    我不能拿起这鬼东西,它太重了

    The first sentence doesn't sound quite right though...
    I won't say this, but perhaps some people do. There're always stylistic preferences and regional differences. But I want to add that, although you probably know, that 能 doesn't necessarily refer to ability. Like the English "can", it's also used to signify permission or moral obligation. 我能进来吗? "Can I come in?" 杀人?这种事不能做. "To kill someone? We can't do things like this." When I hear 我不能拿起, this second sense of 能 comes to my mind.

    Following your reasoning, the phrase "昨天的功课我做不好" is not referring to the fact that the work could not be completed, but is stressing the fact that the quality was not poor (without even saying whether ithe work was finished or not).

    I am thinking that this may be why BODYholic and Ghabi had diverging views on my sentence "昨天的功课我做不好"; since 好 can be used both as a potential complement and a complement of degree, does this sentence sound ambiguous (or strange) when it is in the negative? Maybe the best approach is therefore to stick to 完 or了when referring to the lack of ability to finish something and avoid using 好 completely....
    Yes, I'll say ... but rememebr that 做不完 (can't be finished) and 做不了 (beyond someone's ability) are not the same.
     

    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    这鬼东西太重了,我不能拿起
    I think there is a regional difference between the Northern and Southern speakers in this aspect.

    Over here, it is more natural for us to say "这鬼东西太重了,我起(来)". We do use "不能" but it is usually limited to the meaning of 'not supposed to'. E.g. "这东西不是我的,我不能" or "老爸提醒我不能拿起那东西"

    @DernierVirage,
    "拿/提不起" seems to be more common. For "不动", you find it more common with verbs like "推" and "搬".

    PS: 起来 - This has to be pronounced accurately. Or else it will sound like Hokkien vulgar words. :)
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    .....
    @DernierVirage,
    "拿/提不起" seems to be more common. For "不动", you find it more common with verbs like "推" and "搬".

    PS: 起来 - This has to be pronounced accurately. Or else it will sound like Hokkien vulgar words. :)
    Thanks for your help. Can I also ask you this - would you say that "拿不起" and "拿不起来" are interchangeable, or does the 来 vary the meaning at all ?

    (And I will remember to be careful if one day I have to tell a Hokkien speaker in Putonghua that I can't lift something ;))
     
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    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    "拿/提不起" seems to be more common. For "不动", you find it more common with verbs like "推" and "搬".
    I'm reminded of some lines from classical literature:

    李易安:聞說雙溪春尚好,也擬泛輕舟。只恐雙溪舴艋舟,載不動許多愁。

    西廂:遍人間煩惱填胸臆,量這些大小車兒如何載得起

    Thanks for your help. Can I also ask you this - would you say that "拿不起" and "拿不起来" are interchangeable, or does the 来 vary the meaning at all ?
    They're the same in this case. But don't take this as a rule. For example, your girlfriend is a shop-till-drop type (you're to pay for her of course), and finally you want to break up with her, saying, " 不是我不爱你,是我爱不起你" ("not that I don't love you: I can't afford to love you!") In this case you can't use 起来.
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    ....
    They're the same in this case. But don't take this as a rule. For example, your girlfriend is a shop-till-drop type (you're to pay for her of course), and finally you want to break up with her, saying, " 不是我不爱你,是我爱不起你" ("not that I don't love you: I can't afford to love you!") In this case you can't use 起来.
    Thanks for giving me a new phrase - 爱不起 ;). I was previously taught various structures like this, such as 买不起, 吃不起, 看不起, 干不起, all without 来.

    As regards 拿不起(来), it's good to know that both have the same meaning.
     

    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    Thanks for your help. Can I also ask you this - would you say that "拿不起" and "拿不起来" are interchangeable, or does the 来 vary the meaning at all ?
    I think it depends where is the object/object phrase.
    老是提不起精神
    精神老是提不起来

    端上饭菜
    把饭菜端上来

    I'm reminded of some lines from classical literature:

    李易安:聞說雙溪春尚好,也擬泛輕舟。只恐雙溪舴艋舟,載不動許多愁。

    西廂:遍人間煩惱填胸臆,量這些大小車兒如何載得起
    菊花台 : 愁莫渡江 秋心拆两半

    拆了。就载得动了。:)
     
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    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    I think it depends where is the object/object phrase.
    老是提不起精神
    精神老是提不起来
    But it's quite common to see 老是提不起精神来, so there may also be other reasons?
     
    有些中文的思維似乎很難解釋。很抱歉我英文不好。

    這個問題有些複雜,我想分成幾部分講。

    一:中文的“被”字句不等於英文的被動語態(passive voice)。
    中文的主語/主題(topic)可以不受語態的限制,可以是除了施動者和受動者以外的成份。
    中文的“被”字語,很少由沒有生命的物體允當主語。如果有,通常是:a)受動者發生了變化,施動者負有責任/是直接原因;b)意外、難得、感歎等語氣。
    比如:
    电视机被老王好了。(a和b同時)
    电视机居然能被老王好了。(因爲“可能”是狀態不是動態,所以a不可能。只可能是b)
    电视机能被老王好了?(b驚)
    电视机能被老王好了。(???。如果語氣得當,b驚歎/鄭重)

    二:中文沒有時態(grammatical tense)。
    這裡的時態不是指英文的時態,而是純粹的語法時態。中文沒有辦法用語法表逹敘述的時間是過去、現在、還是未來。這點不用疑問。

    三:敘述事件的發生,必需加上能表逹完成體貌(perfect aspect)的助詞。
    完成體表明特定的一次性事件是完整的(有开始,有結束)。
    電視機老王修好
    電視機老王修好。
    電視機老王修好了。???
    電視機老王能修好了。???(此處“了”是一種語氣詞,此外還有一種“過去不能,現在能”的感覺)
    電視機老王沒能修得好。???(fails to 使“修好”這個件事發生)

    可能性的描述都是狀態性的,不能加“了”或“沒”。但“能”這個詞很奇怪。

    四:動詞可能表達未來必然的事件和主語的意志。
    這種未來的感覺是,按照通常,按照道理,自然原因等的感覺。比如:
    這麼推,石頭肯定不(會)動。
    但當當主語是人時,多半表明自己意志。
    我不(會)去。I will not go.
    所以您#29的句子“今晚我很忙,所以今天的功课我不能做得完”會讓人誤解。

    五:表示結果階段的“得了”“不了”
    “得”的本意大概是“結果”。後來用於表示肯定。“不”表示否定。
    “做不了”相當於“做,但/也 不(會)了”(了:完結,出結果)。這個不是現代漢語,可能比較難理解。我們先考慮另一個例子:
    “推不動”:“這麼肯定推不動石頭”->“這麼,石頭肯定不動。”
    這句話裡,如果除去“肯定”二字,實際上是以一種客觀的角度觀察,石頭“自己不動”“不會動”的感覺。
    通過這種語法,我們其實得到了一個表示動作(推)的結果的動詞(不動)。因爲動作(推)的結果沒有意志,所以(不動)也是對結果的客觀評價。
    如#19所言“仔细想也不完全一样,两者可以构成因果关系,因为“不会”,所以“修不了”。但是,也可能“会修”,但没有所需的零配件而“修不了”。”
    因爲人“不會修”,所以“人”的“修”不會“了”(直譯His repairing will never success)。
    注:此用法本質上和“完成體貌”不能共存,即不可能加“了”“沒”等助詞。

    六:表示結果的“得”
    前面提到的“得”是“表示肯定”。這裡的“得”表示“得到結果”。因爲出了結果,所以經常是完成體的。英語裡"past tense"和"present perfective"的特定事件的用法都是完成體(perfect)的。此用法可以參考“的地得的用法”。注意區別,類似#35的例子:
    “修得不好”:修了,結果不好(沒修好)。
    “修不好”:類以剛才用法。
    “不能修得好”:???(主觀的意志“不能”後面加客觀的“修得好”很奇怪)
    “能修得好”:(is able to [repair it and let it work])
    “沒能修得好”:faild to [repair it and get it work]
    “能修得好了”:是否還記得上面“三:”裡舉的例子?沒能(failed to be able to) 能...了(have become able to)
    我不知道爲什麼“修得好”“不能修得好”裡的“得”只能理解爲“五:”的用法,而“(沒)能修得好(了)”“修得好”的“得”卻是“六:”的用法。

    似乎“能”“會”這些詞用法很特別。

    能:(條件/權力)許可
    不能:(條件/權力)禁止/被禁止。
    沒能:未遂
    能了:(條件/權力)獲得。

    會:技能具備
    不會:意志/承諾/技能不具備。
    會了:技能習得。
    沒會:???

    要:索取物品/要求/意志
    不要:拒絶物品/抵制/
    沒要:未索取物品(didn't)
    要了:索取物品(did)
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    YangMuye:

    我已经花很多时间读您的非常有用﹑有意思的回答,感谢您!那个回答我要继续读下去﹐我要是有其他的问题﹐一定告诉您﹗

    我可不可以问您这个问题﹖︰我#41的句子(〝昨天的功课我做不好〞)您觉得清楚吗﹖

    多谢﹗
     
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    linglin66

    Member
    Chinese
    YangMuye:

    我已经花很多时间读您的非常有用﹑有意思的回答,感谢您!那个回答我要继续读下去﹐我一有其他的问题﹐就告诉您﹗

    我可不可以问您这个问题﹖︰我#41的句子(〝昨天的功课我做不好〞)您觉得清楚吗﹖

    多谢﹗
    昨天的功课我做不好equals to 'I could not finish yesterday's homework perfectly.' It emphasizes that you don't have the ability to finish it with a high quality.

    昨天的功课我做得不好=I finished yesterday's homework but the quality was poor. It just tells the others the result. Maybe you didn't have enough time or you didn't take it seriously.

    感谢你的回答!我还有一个问题:

    〝我拿不动〞和〝我拿不起〞一样的吗?
    “拿不动”和“拿不起来”是一样的。

    另外,南方人会说“这鬼东西太重”;同样的语气,北京人可能会说“这破玩意儿太重”。但北方人会说某个人“这鬼东西,还真机灵”。

    “拿不起来”在北京还有另一层意思,指没有能力,比如:他平时挺能说的,真有事儿的时候,拿不起来。
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    “拿不动”和“拿不起来”是一样的。

    另外,南方人会说“这鬼东西太重”;同样的语气,北京人可能会说“这破玩意儿太重”。但北方人会说某个人“这鬼东西,还真机灵”。

    “拿不起来”在北京还有另一层意思,指没有能力,比如:他平时挺能说的,真有事儿的时候,拿不起来。
    很有意思﹐多谢﹗

    昨天的功课我做不好equals to 'I could not finish yesterday's homework perfectly.' It emphasizes that you don't have the ability to finish it with a high quality.

    昨天的功课我做得不好=I finished yesterday's homework but the quality was poor. It just tells the others the result. Maybe you didn't have enough time or you didn't take it seriously.
    Thanks very much for your input ! As regards the sentence "昨天的功课我做不好" - if you have a quick look at post # 31, you will see that one interpretation is that this sentence does not actually make it clear whether or not the work was actually completed...Do you think that the use of 好 in this sort of sentence risks being ambiguous?

    As regards the other sentence, 昨天的功课我做得不好, I think I'm 100% clear now, and I now understand from what you say, also another recent post, that this is a complement of degree, so it is definitely referring, as you say, to the quality of the work.

    Thanks again !

    I am going to print this whole thread and do a summary of all the valuable information to add to my study material...
     
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