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?


  • U type same sentence with he said
    – fLy
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 0:30
  • This topic might be useful as well: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/16200/… Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 14:41
  • Oops, haha. Corrected it.
    – amorimluc
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 3:58
  • 找不到 is the negative of 找得到. 找到 is the result of 找. 找不到 means this result of 找 is not achieved. You may also say 不能找到 to mean (almost) the same, but this is not as preferred as 找不到.
    – HYC
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 9:10
  • This pattern is also seen in other similar verbs, like 看不见, 听不见.
    – user5808
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 17:28

8 Answers 8


In general,


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?

  • 4
    So 找=look for, 找到=find.
    – Fan Zheng
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 0:53

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").

  • 找不到 (could not find, negative of 找得到),找(to try to find; to look for)with potential complement/可能补语)used when conditions do not allow activity to succeed) to express the same idea, using 能,不能找到 seems possible,cf。iciba,1.The police could not find a motive for the murder.警察不能找到谋杀的动机.找到,find,(到 functions as complement of result/结果补语 negation: 没(有)找到,did not find)]
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 1:27

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.

  • "我不能找" is something stop me to seek something or I don't want to seek.
  • "我找不到" is I seeked but I did't find anthing.

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

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