I have been learning Mandarin since beginning of this year. I also learn from song. Then today I read some lyrics from song. I read some sentences : "我看不清楚", then I just think why it should be like that, not like this : "我不看得清楚", and then from this context ("我看不清楚"), can I make sentences like this : "我睡觉不太好" ?

  • One small suggestion: When you learn enough how's, why's would either be solved or become non-issues :) Dec 26, 2014 at 14:58
  • 1
    the V得/不X format is the Potential Complement (可能补语) and you can have a read about it here: resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/… and the most common example of this I believe is: 我听不懂。
    – Ming
    Dec 29, 2014 at 1:13
  • the other is V得+怎么样, and let's just do this in English: would you say "I can't see clearly" or would you say "I don't see clearly"? That is the difference in your two phrases. You should know why you should use the first and not the second phrase now :) Lastly, I would use 我睡得不太好。EDIT oh this can't vs don't difference is covered by @songyuanyao's answer :)
    – Ming
    Dec 29, 2014 at 1:19

3 Answers 3


我看不清楚 means I can't see clearly, and 我不看得清楚 means I don't see clearly, which is a little weird, seems like someone doesn't see something clearly deliberately.

我睡觉不太好 is okay, means My sleep quality is not good.


我看不清楚 is literally "I see (not clearly)." = "I see blurrily."
我不看得清楚 is literally "I don't (see clearly)" = "I can(have the ability to) see clearly but I don't(decided not to)."

The 不 modifies whatever word is after it. In the former, correct example, it modifies 清楚, so that means that the person sees in a way that is opposite to 清楚. In the latter example which might as well be true though with a different meaning, 看 is modified, so that means that the person did not see. The 看 was also modified by 清楚, indicating that the person did not see clearly.

In Chinese, ability and action are most often expressed clearly: when you can't do something you normally say that you can't, unless answering to a specific question such as "Did you do it?"; you normally only say that you don't when you can do it but do not actually happen to do it, probably because you decided not to do it, or perhaps it is a command asking you not to do it, though such a command should more adequately use 别 in place of 不.

As implied by the paragraph right above this, 我不看得清楚 would most likely mean that the person, though having the ability to see clearly, doesn't want to or decided not to do so(if you need contexts, perhaps a horror movie may serve well). Also, contracting the 得 may sound more natural: 我不看清楚.

Notes: I know when to contract the 得 but I currently cannot describe how. Maybe it is just based on experience, but I am encountering a similar situation in Korean, so this might have some linguistic mechanisms behind it -- so spoken to suggest to you that you will be able to pick this 得 up over time and that it won't be too hard.

我睡觉不太好 is correct(I guess), and almost perfect: 我睡得不太好. Here, I removed the 觉 because most often 睡 alone is sufficient to correctly express "to sleep". It sounds more natural to contract the redundant part of the word if the first character in the word already bears a same and unambiguous meaning (some characters have more than one commonly used meanings making the characters alone seem ambiguous so they need extra characters to specify which meaning the speaker is referring to). Besides removing the 觉 I also added the 得. Again in this aspect, I can only help you with the notes above.


As something complementary to songyuanyao's answer, 我睡觉不太好 seems a little strange. If you use 睡觉 as a verb like what you do in 我看得不清楚, where 看 is a verb too, it's more reasonable to say 我睡不好觉 or simply 我睡得不好 with 得. Intuitively, I think that you say 我睡觉不太好 is most likely at the time when you report something to a doctor, where 睡觉 is a noun.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.