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How does 到 contribute to the meaning of the expression: 这些的确是铁匠会用到的老式钉子.

Is there a difference between sentences with and without it:

  • 这些的确是铁匠会用到的老式钉子

  • 这些的确是铁匠会的老式钉子

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用到 = 用得到 where 到 is resultant compliment for the verb 用. 到 here means 'occurred; reached; accomplished' in the sense that without it, it sounds like 'attempted'.

With some other verbs, the differentiation is more prominent, e.g.

抓老鼠 (try to) catch a mouse.

抓到老鼠 (manage to) catch a mouse.

When it comes to 用 the difference is mostly in certainty level but very trivial:

这些的确是铁匠会的老式钉子

These are true old fashioned clinch nails that a blacksmith might use.

这些的确是铁匠会用到的老式钉子

These are true old fashioned clinch nails that a blacksmith would use.


Side note, 用到 could also mean 'use (...) towards' where 到 is a preposition meaning 'towards; for', as in 把时间用到最重要的事情上. It's unrelated to this question though.

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The 到 here has nothing special: 用到 and 用 in this context are the same. But the cat 抓到 and 抓 rat are different. This is a very common Chinese situation where the same structure (verb+到)has different usage.

The negation of this blacksmith context should be: with 到:

这些的确是铁匠不会用到的老式钉子 or
这些的确是铁匠用不到的老式钉子

without 到:

这些的确是铁匠不用的老式钉子

Also the negative expressions are the same.

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In traditional grammar books, there is this category of elements called result complements which combine with verbs to express the results of the actions/events. For example: 剪 (cut + broken), 洗干净 (wash + clean), 吃 (eat + finish), 用 (use + damaged). This verbal form accepts the insertion of 得 or 不: 剪得断, 洗不干净, 吃不完, and can be used with the 把 construction: 把电线剪断, 把衣服洗干净, 把饭吃完, 把手机用坏.

Some consider 到 as a result complement in such examples like: 看到, 听到, 闻到, 碰到.

If 到 is a result complement, it must be of a special kind because:

  1. It cannot be used with the 把 construction; and
  2. It is hard to describe the result related to 到 as it does not have an explicit lexical meaning like the other result complements, unless we interpret "arrive" in a very abstract manner.

With examples like "他会用到这些钉子", "你昨晚做菜的时候,有没有用到这把刀?" and "这个软件比较复杂,你用到的时候我才跟你解释", it may help, for English speakers, to invoke the notion of "happen/have chances to" (i.e. "He will have chances to use these nails", "Did you happen to use this knife?", "I will explain to you when you get the chance to use this application").

For French speakers, they would certainly invoke the notion of "arriver" as in "ça arrive, ce genre de choses" ("this kind of things happens").

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