I know that after a verb means a completion or termination of a certain action, such as:

  • 吃飽了
    (I am) full.
  • 開始了
    (It) has started.
  • 不動了
    (It) is not moving anymore.

But what about in 忘不了 and 喝不了? Is 不了 an expression, or does each character have a specific meaning in this context? How would 忘不了 and 喝不了 be translated? (I suppose it would not be I have not forgotten yet and I have not drunk yet...)

Thanks in advance!

3 Answers 3


here is read liǎo which means:

to finish / to achieve / variant of 瞭|了 / to understand clearly -CC-CEDICT



unable to / without end -CC-CEDICT

忘不了 = can't forget / unforgettable

喝不了 = can't drink / undrinkable


“不了” in this context is pronounced "bu4liao3" and means "to be unable to".


吃不了 unable to eat

忘不了 unable to forget

  • 1
    了 doesn't mean unable to 不了 means unable to.
    – Mou某
    Apr 26, 2015 at 4:38

In addition to @Flaudre's answer below, which included this:

吃不了 unable to eat chi bu liao

You can add another 了(this time 'le') to mean 'any more' (or a change of state, from being able to eat to not being able to eat):

我吃不了了 = I can't eat any more. I'm full up. I've had enough. wo chi bu liao le

了 is a great word!

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.