I was recently corrected by a Chinese friend. He said it's incorrect to say:
He said the right form is:
Which sentence structure pattern is this following. Is it used with only certain verbs? Only with 能／可以／会？
I'm not able/ allowed/ permitted/ qualified to look for something/somebody.
I am not able to/ cannot find the things that I am looking for.
Typically, native speaker seldom use "我不能找".
English speakers don't quite say "I cannot look for something" either, right?
找到 means to find;
找 means to look for.
We do say 我找不到 for this case, but 我不能找到 is also correct in grammar. Just that normally we prefer 我找不到.
However, 我不能找 means totally different things, and I believe this is only used in rare cases.
Um, in your description you had two identical sentences… Let's go with your title.
"我不能找" is wrong. It conveys either that "I am not allowed to search" or "I do not possess the ability to search."
"我找不到" is the correct way. It means "I searched, but cannot find."
Note the nuance between not able to search ("不能找") and not able to find ("找不到").
Just add some additional information:
找 means to look for something, to search 找到 means to find
Hope this can be of some help.
我 = I/me 不能 = can't/not able 找 = find (means you cannot find thing, mostly people will ask you back why you cannot find thing?)
我 = I/me 找 = find 不到 = not reached/not completed (means failed to find something)
I'm a Chinese =D
You need to put the language into context. It is an idea that is trying to be expressed. In Mandarin that idea is expressed as 找不到。As muchos as it might not seem like the right way, if is the Chinese way. I became fluent in Mandarin when I just accepted the language.
我找不到 is like I cannot find 我不能找 is like I cannot look for