Verbs can take potential complements that indicate whether or not the action is actually possible. They are useful in Chinese to say if an action can take place.


Potential complements can be positive or negative. What this means is fairly intuitive - potential complements can be used to express that something can happen or that it can't.

Verb + 得 / 不 + [complement]

Here the complement is the second part of the potential complement after 得 (positive) or 不 (negative).


Wǒ tīnɡ dé dǒnɡ。
我 听 得 懂。
I can understand.

wǒ tīnɡ bú dǒnɡ。
我 听 不 懂。
I can't understand.

wǒ mǎi bú qǐ nà tào fánɡzi 。
我 买 不 起 那 套 房子 。
I can't afford (to buy) that apartment.

wǒ dōu chī dé wán。
我 都 吃 得 完。
I can finish eating it all.