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I am referring to the usage as defined on


Does 掉 often have the connotation of falling or missing? What is the difference between (verb)掉 and (verb)了 and(verb)掉了?

I've heard this in the negative (擦不掉)。 How does that differ from(verb)不了?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

When 掉 is used as a verb complement (not a verb), it indicates that something disappears, is removed, is disposed of, etc. as the result of an action. Not really "falling" or "missing".

Some examples:

擦不掉:Something can't be removed or got rid of by rubbing or wiping. Maybe it's a stain on your shoes, and you're trying to rub it off with a cloth, but it can't be wiped away.

吃掉:To "eat something up". All of it is gone.

卖掉房子:To sell your house. After you sell it, it's gone. It's off your hands now.

忘掉:To forget something. After you forget it, it's gone from your memory.

忘不掉:To not be able to forget something, to be unforgettable.

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Thanks, so can you say “我吃掉了”? – tao Dec 19 '13 at 6:19
Yes, absolutely! – Alex D Dec 19 '13 at 6:50

掉 and 了 can be used as verb or adverb.

(verb) means drop or fall.

(verb) [pronounced as liao] means finish or understand, but it is rarely used in speaking.

(adverb) is used to show the result of the verb, eg. 吃掉 (show result, ate it).

(adverb) [pronounced as le] means already. In grammar of English Language can be interpreted as perfect tense. Eg. 吃了 (has eaten).

Thus, 掉了 in Chinese can be interpreted as has fallen.

P/S: In fact, these explanations are not enough to explain all situations because these two words have a lot usage.

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Strangely enough, when I try to make phrase like "钓掉", my preference seems to be "钓走", as it is easier to pronounce. And I think it is necessary to account for the difference of 走 and 掉。

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