Objects in sentences with potential complements can occur either after the complement or at the beginning of a sentence .

For example:

这个大米我吃得完。 or 我吃得完这个大米。

They both work, but one sounds weird in English.

Is this just a distinction between Chinese and English? Or am I missing the idea of correct interpretation??

  • cf."外国人实用汉语语法" 前置宾语 fronted object 为了强调、对比,或使句子简洁起见,有时宾语也可以放在动词谓语或主语前边,这样的宾语叫前置宾语。前置宾语形式上没有任何标记;从意义上看,一般应是动词谓语能支配的对象,而且可以移到动词谓语后边;从结构上看,谓语前边或后边常带状语或补语等。
    – user6065
    Jul 6, 2017 at 8:48
  • in fact user feels strongly that above quotation from "外国人实用汉语语法" had been included in some previous comment, which, however seems difficult to locate, b/c site search function does not seem to cover comments
    – user6065
    Jul 6, 2017 at 11:55

1 Answer 1


First, 个 is not a classifier for 大米 , So I changed it to 些

  • There are only two potential particles for verbs.

    1. 得 (able to)

    2. 不 (unable to)

吃完 = eat all

吃[得]完 = [able to] eat all

吃[不]完 = [unable to] eat all

  • The placement of the object is flexible. When using [subject+ verb + object]sentence structure, the object is placed after the the verb, e.g. 我吃了米 (the verb particles 得 and 完 are part of the verb)

  • The object can also be placed before the verb in passive voice sentences e.g. '米被我吃了'

  • The object can also acts as the topic in [topic] + [comment] structure, and be placed at the beginning of the sentence.

[S+V+O] sentence:

[1. 我] [2. 吃] [3. 得] [4. 完] [5. 这些大米]

[1. subject] [2. verb] [3. potential particle] [4. resultive particle ] [5. object]

It is very straight forward-- 'subject' then 'verb' then 'object'.

[Topic+ comment/opinion] sentence:

[1. 这些大米] [2. 我吃得完]

[1. topic] [2.comment]

[这些大米(topic)] + [我吃得完(comment)]

The object [这些大米] is the topic. the relative clause [我吃得完] is the comment.

Both examples above are grammatically correct.

[O+S+V] sentence (passive voice):

[1. 这些大米] [2. 被][3. 我] [4. 吃] [5. 完]

[1. object] [2. passive marker] [3. subject] [4.verb] [5. resultive particle ]

We don't use passive voice with potential particle. Potential particle only works in active voice

  • [这些大米被我吃完] is grammatically correct

  • [这些大米被我吃得完] is grammatically incorrect

Objects with potential complements

In summary:

  1. object must be placed after the verb in [SVO] sentence, and potential complement is part of the verb.

  2. object can be placed at the beginning of a sentence in [topic + comment] sentences.

  3. in [OSV] (passive voice) sentence, we don't use potential complement

  • Is there another example of a massive marker other than bei?
    – Abe Shudug
    Jul 6, 2017 at 22:27
  • "passive marker" CCG:3 forms of passive: (a) notional passive (no formal passive marker) e,g, 问题解决了 (b)formal passive e.g. 问题终被解决 (c)lexical passive e.g. 问题得到了解决,问题得到解决了
    – user6065
    Jul 7, 2017 at 3:16

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