IV. The potential complement in idiomatic expressions

 

1. -de, expressing whether “it is O.K. to...”, is commonly used in its negative form; the verb preceding it must be a monosyllabic verb. -de when used as a complement has unique positive and negative forms. For example:

 

 

positive: chīde吃得 okay to eat/can be eaten/edible         

negative: chībùde吃不得not okay to eat/cannot be eaten/not edible

 

         

Zhèi zhǒng mógu chīde, nèizhǒng chībùde.  

这种蘑菇 (mógu, mushroom) 吃得 ,那种吃不得。

This kind of mushroom is edible, the other isn’t.

 

 

          Zhèi zhāng huàr jiànbùde guāng.  

          这张画儿见不得光。

This painting cannot/is not okay to be exposed to sunlight.

 

 

          zuò de shì jiànbùde rén.  

          他做的事见不得人。

His doings cannot be made known/are not okay to be presented (to people).

 

2. Liǎois a verb often used as a potential complement, expressing whether or not an action can be carried on, or whether an action can achieve a positive result---due to the ability or circumstances of the person acting. However, liǎo matches only certain verbs such as zuò, gàn, bàn, , lái, zǒu, dào, , bān, chī, , xué, xiě, kàn, tīng, shuō, etc. Below are a few examples.

 

         

Zhèi zhǒng gōngzuò zuòdeliǎo ma?  

这种工作他做得了吗?

Can he do this kind of work?

 

 

Míngtiān hěn máng, qùbùliǎo.  

明天我很忙,去不了。

I’ll be busy tomorrow. I cannot go.

 

 

Dōngxi tài duō le, ge rén nádeliǎo ma?  

东西太多了,你一个人拿得了吗?

There are so many things. Can you carry them alone?

 

 

chībùliǎo zhème duō fàn.  

我吃不了这么多饭。

I cannot eat so much food.

 

 

-de péngyǒu dāngzhōng méi yǒu ge rén xiědeliǎo zhème piàoliang de Hànzì.  

我的朋友当中没有一个人写得了这么漂亮的汉字。

None of my friends can write such beautiful characters.

 

3. tándelái谈得来can get along with                tánbùlái谈不来cannot get along with

 

          gēn Xiǎo Wáng tándelái tánbùlái?  

你跟小王谈得来谈不来? 

Can you and Xiao Wang get along with each other?

 

4. qǐ: affordability

 

          Jìnkǒu de dōngxi tài guì le, mǎibùqǐ.  

          进口的东西太贵了,我买不起。 

Imported things are too expensive. I can’t afford them.

 

5. duìdeqǐ对得起 not let (someone) down                   duìbuqǐ对不起let (someone) down; sorry

 

          duìdeqǐ fùmǔ ma?  

          你对得起父母吗?

          Aren’t you letting your parents down?